Interview: Ukrainian pilot “Karaya”

Posted on 28 December 2022



Interview with a well-known Ukrainian pilot Vadym Voroshylov with a call sign “Karaya”.

Original article in Ukrainian on:

Author: Yevhen Rudenko

Translation by @VolodyaTretyak (Twitter)

Karaya’s instagram:



(Yevhen Rudenko): Vadym, when I first saw you in the media, I remembered the Russian pilot captured in Chernihiv. He was so… chubby. Is it the enemy’s problem with physique, or is it my stereotype about aviators who supposedly all have to be athletes?


(Vadym): (Smiles). It was Krasnoyartsev. I would not say that they have such a problem. But, indeed, we already have a new concept of flight personnel training. After 2014, the emphasis is more on young people as the main force of strike aviation. From the statistics of aircraft shootdowns, from those militaries who we captured, we see that these are… I can’t even say “boys” – adult men. We must understand: the younger a person is, the faster the brain works. It is very important in aviation.



(I): Some Russian pilots who were captured tried to convince that they did not know about the bombing of residential buildings because they were working according to the coordinates provided to them. Is it possible to believe this?


(V): I do not believe it at all. They have ordinary navigation systems like Garmin, touristic, in various modifications. Perhaps their public accepts propaganda (that Russian aviation does not hit peaceful targets – remark), but our society is quite literate. You do not need to be an aviator to understand: if a person enters latitude and longitude in a tourist navigator, they clearly see what is there. Of course, if the coordinate is entered within a certain settlement, it is immediately clear that you are working on the settlement. They do it like railway lines, as people say. This is an ordinary aircraft bomb, which has just a flight trajectory, and the accuracy of bombing depends on a bunch of factors, ranging from the skills of the pilot to meteorological conditions. Therefore, I do not believe in this legend.


(I): What is considered an accurate strike with low-precision weapons?


(V): I can say roughly: according to the standards, the enemy’s bombing is considered “excellent” if it is within plus or minus 50 meters. In urban conditions, even this is a huge error.


(I): Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation: you are ordered to bomb targets within residential areas. What will you do?


(V): We have already discussed this with our sworn brothers. Firstly, I do not want to talk about it hypothetically because it is impossible in theory. Our military and political leadership will not allow it. If we look at it more abstractly, the pilot and navigator in the Su-34 (the downed plane of Krasnoyartsev – UP) always see the target’s location, at least through navigation. Yes, they are given a task to perform. But no one will fire them, and no one will put them in prison if they drop bombs, for example, in an open field, at a distance of a kilometer or two from residential buildings, with overflight or underflight. It will just be a “mistake in piloting technique and poor training” – that’s all! So that’s all there is to it. But such an option could be considered if they were people. They fully and completely understand what they are doing. This is their traditional scorched earth tactic. This is what they have done before in Ichkeria, in Georgia, in Syria.


(I): How did you formulate your attitude toward the enemy? Is there something like respect for their pilots?


(V): We treat them not as a specific, living person but as air targets. They turn only into dry figures in the daily summary of the General Staff (losses of the Russian army – remark), no more.


Of course, there were cases of respect for enemy pilots in history, but a long time ago, in the First World War. Then there were more noble relations, if I may say so.


Back then, they declared war, signed the act of war, and then went to their positions. Now the enemy has been saying for several months that he was not going to attack, and then insidiously attacked peaceful cities of Ukraine in the morning.



(I): Is there something that most distinguishes our pilots from the enemy?


(V): There is a lot to say, but I will only say that we perform such tasks that technically were not even considered at the design stage of our aircraft.


We have very limited technical capabilities, but we do everything to destroy the enemy. We try to work effectively in more extreme conditions and are absolutely ready for anything.


The enemy, having an advantage, works as it is written in the textbooks on tactical and fire training. We use more modern methods, which are not written in any textbook of any country in the world.


(I): So, NATO pilots will have something to learn from ours after this war?


(V): Yes (smiles).


(I): Is it playing a cruel joke with the Russians that they have so much equipment? Do they act, as they say, “at ease” or not?


(V): You are right. But do not underestimate the enemy. He is dangerous. I have a negative attitude to the statements that there are some “chmony” and the rest. No! This is the enemy. They have a significant advantage in aircraft and ground air defense. They know how to work and learn from this war, just like we do.


When we talk about comfortable conditions for the enemy, we mean the ability of their fighter aircraft to operate without entering our air defense zone. But when they get into this zone, every time in the reports from the General Staff you see pluses opposite the destroyed air targets.


(I): Is there anything surprising among them? Maybe some specific types of aircraft?


(V): Yes, but not aircraft. It should be understood that a plane is more of a platform, a carrier of aviation means of destruction and that it is these means that can give an advantage in the air.


Recently, the Russians have developed long-range air-to-air missiles R-37M. We can say that this is their newest weapon, although it is a Soviet development, which they have modernized. Their declared range of air targets is very serious – up to 400 kilometers. In fact, we see smaller figures, but this means of destruction is still very dangerous.


However, we constantly analyze air battles with these missiles and find methods to combat them.



(I): What military target do you dream of destroying?


(V): I can list three (smiles): Tu-95, Tu-160, Tu-22M3. These targets threaten our cities and civilians, but they do not enter the target zone of our tactical aircraft. They are just afraid, and they insidiously make launches on the territory of Ukraine.


At the moment, I see the possibility of their destruction only when they are at the airfields (smiles). So far, this is the only way.


But there are still enemy strike aircraft operating over the temporarily occupied territories, and if we had the technical capability, we would completely paralyze the enemy in the Ukrainian air. Western-type fighters will help to reveal our potential to 100%.


(I): Are you among those who believe that it should be F-16?


(V): Yes, we need a massive aircraft that exists in the world. Of course, we can consider different types, such as Gripen and Eurofighter. They are more resistant to our airfield infrastructure but are not massive. There is no, let’s say, “secondary market” of such vessels in the world. F-16 is one of the most massive aircraft of its class in the world. Therefore, we will be able to service them, and, most importantly, thanks to our Western partners, we will have no shortage of means of destruction. These are the main points why F-16. If we consider the time after the victory, there is much to choose from. Of course, there are aircraft that, I would say, are almost perfect in terms of combat capabilities. These are F-22 and F-35. But at the moment, the F-16 will greatly improve the situation and help our defense forces in the complex.


(I): Most people know about modern military aviation, mainly from Hollywood movies. Have you seen the film “Top Gun”?


(V): Of course (smiles). I am a fan of the first part. When I was a cadet, I flew on light aircraft. At that time, I did not deal with jet technology and watched this movie with wide-open eyes. But now, everything is perceived differently. You must understand that this is not a documentary but a feature film. Regarding the second part of “Top Gun” I will say that it is a very beautiful, aesthetically filmed fairy tale. There are many shots of real piloting. But, as for the conduct of air battles, the work of anti-aircraft missile systems – they do not quite reflect reality, let’s say (smiles). But I was very interested in watching this film from the point of view of how they shot it, and what emotions it evokes. Such a movie encourages young people to go to the army, not only to the US Air Force but to the military in general.


(I): When you dreamed of flying, you did not think you would have to fight?


(V): Yes, I did.


(I): And if you were told that you would have to, would you go into military aviation?


(V): At a deep level, there was still an understanding that the army exists to conduct combat operations, offensive or defensive. At that time, of course, no one could imagine it. But I would have gone anyway.


(I): This war has already led to unmanned aviation development. Doesn’t it hurt to see how everything is going to the point that pilots in the sky will not be needed in the future?



(V): As combat operations have shown, the efficiency of reconnaissance aviation and the effectiveness of drones in suppressing air defense systems is an extremely important element of weapons. Now there is a boom in unmanned aviation, which will only improve. Some countries, like Turkey, are beginning to produce drones to engage air targets. The United States last year performed the first aerial refueling from an unmanned vessel. Of course, this is the future. But we must always understand that in a critical situation, only a person can assess the situation and make decisions in the air. I believe unmanned aviation is the future, but only when working in conjunction with traditional aviation.


(I): Would you now exchange your work in the air during the war for a drone console somewhere safe?


(V): No, I wouldn’t. I choose to work in the sky. It gives the experience and more effective use of weapons and emotions.


(I): Emotions? I got the impression that you are a very balanced person, almost without emotions.


(V): There are emotions. They just do not manifest themselves outwardly. It is somewhere in your soul. You understand that you are doing something that saves someone’s life, and helps to defeat the enemy. I do not even know how to describe these inner emotions. You study, improve your skills, and now the time has come when you need to show what you can do to protect the state.


(I): What does our military aviation lack the most? People, equipment, or both?


(V): The first thing we need is to increase the range that our radar and sighting systems can see. The second is air-to-air guided weapons with a much longer range than we have now. So we really need F-16s that can meet our needs in that regard.


(I): It is a bit early to talk about it now, but how do you see the future of Ukrainian aviation?


(V): I see it (smiles). After a full-scale invasion, I am sure we will have Western-style aircraft. After the victory, there will be modernization of equipment and training system. We will have more modern aircraft. Our industrial capacities should be implemented and developed together with Western companies. Of course, we are inferior in electronics and aircraft equipment, but we have tremendous experience in the design of airframes, rocketry, and engine production. To make a perfect product, we must combine our experience with the Western one.



(I): What will be a victory in this war for you?


(V): In my opinion, signing a peace treaty with the aggressor country is only a pause during which the forces will regroup, nothing more. When the enemy accumulates enough people and equipment, analyzes everything, and attacks us again. If their state remains in such a format, with a political vector as it is now. I consider victory to be when the enemy’s power and politics change. Ideally, victory is the collapse of the empire. And, of course, an obligatory point is restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and returning all occupied territories together with Crimea.


(I): I know that the military does not like forecasts regarding the timing of the end of the war. But I will ask this: when will we see civilian, not military, aviation in the Ukrainian sky again?


(V): At the moment, I do not want to give any forecasts. Of course, I have a personal opinion, but I do not want to make it public. I have no moral right to make forecasts at least because I do not have the full amount of strategic information. After February 24, I try to live one day at a time, or rather – right now and right here. Earlier I could postpone some important life decisions until, as they say, more comfortable times. Now, if there is an opportunity to do something, you should definitely do it, do not postpone. No one knows whether tomorrow will come. We must not stop, living here and now.

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