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19th Aug 2022

Fresh statistics show massive US air superiority over EU

  • US fighter jet. The US flew more military flights in European airspace last year than any European country (Photo: Air Combat Command)

New statistics released by European air controllers show the vast superiority of the US air force over EU countries and the density of US military traffic in European skies.

The numbers, published by the Brussels-based Eurocontrol on Wednesday (12 October), note that the US has a total of 13,195 military and paramilitary air vehicles compared to 8,111 in the 27 EU countries combined. The EU's top air powers - France (1,339), the UK (1,296), Germany (1,096) and Italy (901) - come nowhere near.

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The difference is even bigger when it comes to combat aircraft. The US has 3,630 combat jets (not counting helicopters). France has 380, Germany 346, the UK 213 and Italy 164. Meanwhile, Greece is exposed as a mini-air-power - the small Balkan country has 304 combat jets. Its prickly-neighbour-cum-Nato-ally Turkey has 401.

The US in 2010 carried out a massive 38,482 military flights in European Civil Aviation Conference airspace, a zone covering the EU, Ukraine, the western Balkans, Turkey, the south Caucasus as well the more remote Iceland and Danish-owned Greenland. Italy (39,985) and France (31,962) were the only EU countries with comparable traffic albeit on their home turf.

Russia, a Cold-War-era superpower and Western adversary, made just 558.

The Soviet Union's Cold War footprint is visible in the type of military aircraft used by EU countries, however.

France and the UK use home-made combat jets, like Rafales and Typhoons. Germany and Italy favour US-made and British technology. Greece has French and US combat jets. But many former Communist and Soviet EU members are still using Russian-made aircraft.

Bulgaria relies on MiG-21s, MiG-29s and Su-25s. Romania and Slovakia use only MiG-21s and MiG-29s. Poland has a handful of US-made F-16s but the bulk of its fleet are MiG-29s and Su-22s. The Baltic states have no fighter jets but use mostly Russian-made Antonov cargo planes.

The Czech Republic and Hungary have broken with the past, buying Swedish-made JAS and Gripen fighter jets instead.

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