U.S. Fighter Jets Are Surveilling Russia’s War in Ukraine

March 5, 2022 Topic: Russia-Ukraine War Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Ukraine CrisisUkraineRussiaNATOIntelligenceISR

U.S. Fighter Jets Are Surveilling Russia’s War in Ukraine

Sensors from American aircraft are able to penetrate deep into Ukraine, and the data they gather is being shared with Ukraine.


Although the United States is playing an active role in intelligence gathering for Ukrainian forces, Washington is being careful to avoid actions that Russia could perceive as escalatory.

A previously scheduled intercontinental ballistic missile test was postponed, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby recently noted. “We did not take this decision lightly but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power,” Kirby explained. Kirby emphasized that “this is not a step backwards in our readiness.”


Despite unfavorable odds and being thoroughly overmatched by virtually every metric by Russian forces, the Ukrainian armed forces have displayed an uncanny ability to remain combat-effective.

Russian forces have experienced severe logistical issues, hampering their combat effectiveness. Reports on social media and online paint a bleak picture of Russia’s forces. Russian troops entered Ukraine with inadequate food rations—five-plus years expired in some cases. Fuel is a pressing issue, with multiple Russian convoys stalled for lack of diesel.

One Russian convoy north of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, is over forty miles long and going nowhere fast.

“They haven’t, from our best estimates, made any appreciable progress, geographically speaking, in the last 24 to 36 hours,” Kirby explained during an afternoon briefing.

He added that “we believe the Russians are deliberately actually regrouping themselves and reassessing the progress that they have not made and how to make up the lost time.”

Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance

In a tweet, Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs Dmytro Kuleba voiced his support for sanctions against Russia but added that emphasized that “Ukraine needs additional deliveries of weapons, especially for our Air Force, now.” And it would seem that the United States is gathering and sharing a considerable amount of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data with Ukraine.

As per reporting from Air Force Magazine, the United States and NATO are sharing everything from radio and communications data to radar and satellite data with Ukraine. They are also providing Ukraine with airborne early warning and control system data collected from the air along NATO’s eastern flank.

Sensors from American F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, and F-35s are able to penetrate deep into Ukraine, and the data they gather is also being shared with Ukraine. However, one area that remains off-limits is the Black Sea due to potential accidents or escalation with Russian forces.

Still, the United States would like to deliver more lethal aid to the beleaguered Ukrainian defenders without coming into contact with Russian forces in the air on land, Kirby explained to reporters.

“We're continuing to look for ways to support Ukraine to defend themselves. And we’re very actively engaged in those efforts to help them better defend themselves through both lethal and nonlethal assistance.”

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.

Image: Reuters.