NATO loses ISR capability over Ukraine as Putin closes airspace

NATO has lost its ability to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) overflights of Ukraine, with the closure of the country’s airspace by Russia.

Just prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing his intent to send forces into Ukraine beyond the current borders of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia issued a decree closing airspace across the northeast of the country, while military action across much of the remainder of Ukraine has had the same effect. Immediately following the launch of Russian military action in the early hours of 24 February, online flight-tracking services recorded manned and unmanned NATO ISR aircraft departing Ukraine for alliance and international airspace.

Since late 2021 alliance ISR assets operating over Ukraine have included US Air Force (USAF) Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems (JSTARs), Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft, and Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); US Army Bombardier Challenger 650-based Airborne Reconnaissance and Targeting Multi-Mission Intelligence System (ARTEMIS) aircraft for electronic intelligence (ELINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT); UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Rivet Joints; and NATO RQ-4D Phoenix UAVs, among others.

janes/ NATO loses ISR capability over Ukraine as Putin closes airspace