How do F-16s protect Ukraine, and why does Ukrainian Army need them?

Russia is increasingly using guided bombs against Ukrainian border towns. The planes do not fly close to the border and bomb civilians from a safe distance with impunity.

Ukraine’s armed forces will only have a way to counter such tactics once they receive the US F-16 universal combat aircraft from the West. Although they will not be a panacea for all Russian attacks, they can close many gaps in the defence of Ukrainian skies.

Against this background, Ukraine received old Soviet MiG-29s from Slovakia and Poland. However, the Air Force is not inclined to overestimate these machines, as they are outdated and will not seriously affect the situation.

Ukraine continues to insist that the main guarantee of safe skies is modern Western aircraft. And they are needed not only and not so much for offence but for defence. Ukraine already has a list of pilots ready to start learning to fly F-16s shortly and quickly master the new machines.

“When we’ll have F16s, we’ll win this war” – Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman

“Today, we cannot fight on equal terms with the Russians with the available Soviet aircraft,” says the spokesman of the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuri Ihnat, in an interview with Espreso TV. He reminds us that Ukraine has old Soviet MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters, Su-24M bombers, and Su-25 attack aircraft. They are all mono-functional.

“This is outdated Soviet equipment – morally and physically. It is working at the limit of its capabilities. The pilots squeeze the maximum out of it,” says Ihnat.

“There is no other way out than to switch to Western equipment, to a modern multi-role aircraft. A single multi-purpose plane, like the F-16, can combine all functions and be a universal machine for the tasks of the Air Force.

The F-16 was designed to be part of the air defence system and work with ground-based air defence systems. And where the air defence system cannot reach, it is the fighter aircraft that works there.

F-16 capabilities

For example, at night, when mobile fire groups with anti-aircraft guns and man-portable air defence systems have difficulty operating, aircraft are needed to repel missile and drone attacks.

Ihnat emphasizes that f-16s would allow the Air Force to expand aviation’s functionality in the Ukraine defence significantly.

He also talks about the range of modern weapons, including air-to-air and air-to-surface guided missiles. They can be used effectively and, most importantly, over long distances to hit the Russians’ air and ground targets.

For example, Ihnat reminds us one of the modifications of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile allows us to hit enemy air targets at a distance of up to 180 km. This is farther than anything that Ukraine’s aviation currently has.

With the help of aircraft equipped with such missiles, the Air Force can gain air superiority over the Russians even in the occupied territories. But not only that. As Ihnat points out, such equipment and missiles can help the Air Force drive Russian aircraft away from Ukraine’s borders.

“Not only in the occupied territories but also further, where they will fly and work,” Ihnat says, referring to the territory of Russia, from which aircraft launch missiles and guided bombs.

F16s can protect Ukrainian cities from Russian guided bombs

He emphasizes that today Russia is actively using various long-range missiles from aircraft from the territory of Russia: “These include super-powerful R-37 missiles and guided cruise bombs that fly tens of kilometres. Russian planes launch them and do not enter the area of Ukrainian air defence.

That’s what the Russians did at night when ten Su-35s bombed the Sumy region and caused a lot of damage. And Ukraine has no means to neutralize them.

These bombs, he said, can be from 500 kg to 1.5 tons. They are adjusted and used by Russia to strike Ukrainian border towns and villages.

Ihnat claims that with the help of F-16s with modern missiles, the Air Force will be able to drive away Russian planes with such bombs. According to him, the same functions can be partially performed by modern air defence systems that Ukraine will soon receive from its Western partners. These are the PATRIOT and SAMP-T systems with a range of 150 kilometres against aerodynamic targets.

In addition, the F-16s can carry air-to-surface guided missiles to target Russians on the ground. It is also possible to use cruise missiles. In addition, the Air Force will be able to make greater use of adjusted bombs.

To work at sea, the F-16 has Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Their task will be to control the Black Sea in the interests of Ukraine.

And most importantly, as Ihnat says, the F-16s will be able to strike with precision weapons at Russian logistics centres in the rear, where the troops are supplied with fuel, lubricants, and ammunition.

Training of Ukrainian pilots on F16s

As Ihnat points out, the command has already identified a list of several dozen pilots who Ukraine is ready to send for training.

They have selected the best pilots with the combat experience and skills to master the new aircraft as quickly as possible. Of course, they speak English.

Ihnat said that they had already tested the pilots on specific systems and looked at their level of training. There are preliminary conclusions on how long it will take Ukrainians to master Western fighter jets.

“There are quite optimistic signals that it will take even less than the previously announced 6 months to master such types of aircraft as the F-16,” Ihnat points out.

The pilots on the list, he says, are indeed highly motivated and ready to be the first to master the aircraft at any site.

But, as Ihnat admits, the training has yet to begin, as there is still no political decision to provide new aircraft. So far, they are considering different aircraft options.

Source: Espreso TV, Photo credit: Getty Images

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