Ukrainian pilots filmed in daring low-flying manouevres to evade Russian forces

Ukrainian pilots have been seen flying so low that they skim the top of trees in footage that shows how they use their expert skills to evade Russian surface-to-air missiles.

In scenes reminiscent of the fictional pilots of Top Gun: Maverick, the real-life pilots are seen performing death-defying, low-flying manoeuvres filmed from a pilot's cockpit on one Ukrainian SU25 jet as the country's air forces carry out missions in the country's east.

The aircraft is seen flying incredibly low, almost clipping the tops of the trees, in order to avoid detection from Russia's warplanes and evade air defence systems.

The video, filmed from the cockpit in the Donbas region, comes as fighting continues in Severodonetskv - with neither side willing to lose control despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admitting Russian forces have a numerical advantage.

The jets are forced to fly so low to avoid Russian SAM systems, with both sides using small shoulder-launched missiles known as MANPAD's (Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems) - with Ukraine also having access to US-made Stinger missiles and UK-made Martlet.

However, the terrain in eastern Europe is flat, meaning fighter jets cannot use valleys and hills to mask their approach to the target and the MANPAD's have very little time to react when the aircraft approach.

Former RAF Fast Jet Pilot, Retired Air Marshal Edward Stringer told Forces News: "I would guess from those images they're flying at about 100 to 150ft above the ground.

"We used to typically, day to day, have a 250ft limit and then we would be allowed in certain conditions and supervised to fly down to 100ft."

The former RAF Fast Jet Pilot added: "It takes a lot of skill and practise to do that."

Watch: Ukrainian pilots' daring low-flying skills to go undetected by Russian forces.

The Ukrainians have not been the first to show off low-flying aircraft caught on film during this conflict, as the Russians have been seen using the tactic as well.

Footage released by the Russians appeared to show an extremely low-flying Russian KA-52 helicopter and other footage seemed to show Russian SU-25s flying very low also.

The reason why both of these military forces are using low-flying aircraft is that both sides offer effective surface-to-air weapons which can bring down planes and helicopters, and eliminate the emerging threat from drones.

The Kremlin use a number of anti-aircraft weapons, including Strela-10, SA-15 Tor and SA-22 Pantsir-S, while both sides are also using a variety of mobile missile and cannon air defence systems.

Watch: What is the STARStreak anti-air weapons system?

In April, the Defence Secretary confirmed Ukrainian forces had been using the UK's STARStreak high-velocity and low-velocity anti-air missiles.

STARStreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) is designed to counter threats from high-performance, low-flying aircraft and helicopters, can travel at more than three times the speed of sound and uses three dart-like projectiles, allowing multiple strikes on a target.

The Ukrainian military is set to receive 15 German anti-aircraft Gepard tanks - with troop training and almost 60,000 rounds of ammunition.

Norway has also provided Ukraine with anti-aircraft weapons, in the form of the French-made Mistral air defence system, while Slovakia has sent Ukraine the S-300 missile which can reach much higher altitudes.

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