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UKRAINE: The problems facing the F-16 – “They say it's manna from heaven but…”

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ΟΥΚΡΑΝΙΑ: Τα προλorματααντιμετωπΙζουν ταλεοεο ;ανοy αλλa…»

The West should give Ukraine the vital F-16s, but many believe that they are not expected to change the fate of the war with Russia, due to objective difficulties.

Ukraine is expecting its first F-16 fighter jets, with the first dozen expected in the coming weeks as pilots complete their training, believing it might be able to make a difference in the outcome of the war with Russia, but there are some that stand in the objective difficulties of the undertaking.

“We are forced to make do with the weapons they will give us”
“They say the F-16s are manna from heaven, but the reality is far from it,” Lt. Gen. Ikhor Romanenko, a former deputy chief of the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces, told Al Jazeera.

The difficulties

As many observers point out, the specific fighters are unlikely to be a factor that will change the situation in the war, as even before they reach Ukraine, they face some objective difficulties.

One problem is that the air intake system is very low and pebbles from potholes on the Ukrainian airstrips can get into it – which can also be dangerous for the small wheels of the plane. A much bigger problem is the range of missiles the West will supply them with.

An F-16 can carry a variety of missiles or bombs, but the planes Ukraine is getting will be able to carry very small additional.

“We are forced to make do with the weapons they will give us,” Romanenko added.

The missiles will likely have a range of 120 kilometers, while Russian missiles can reach up to 300 kilometers. “You try to use them any way you can,” Romanenko said. “And we should really make it work,” he added.

Problem and training

Another issue is the training of Ukrainian pilots, which lasted only six months, a short time to master the basics of flying, avoiding enemy fire and engagement with enemy planes.

They also needed English training – and had to readjust to flying Soviet-made fighter jets, which were designed to counter the F-16s and F-15s – but were not modeled after them. Dozens more Ukrainian pilots will undergo similar training.

“The training will be extremely basic, which is also not an advantage,” Mykhailo Zhirokov, a military expert based in the northern Ukrainian city, told Al Jazeera. Chernihiv.

The Russians have announced them

However, although they have not yet appeared in the skies over Ukraine, the Russians have already announced them.

Fores, a Russian company that produces equipment for drilling, announced that it would pay 15 million rubles, or about $170,000, to the first Russian pilot to shoot down an F-16.

Russia will also drop hypersonic ballistic missiles to destroy the F-16s on Ukrainian soil, which means Kiev is already planning to station the fighters in some other eastern European states, such as Poland.

< p>“Naturally, they will be hunted,” “But we will hide them, equip them and use them,” he added.

The F-16s, he said, will be used “exclusively” to they carry high-precision weapons and are intended to intercept Russian cruise missiles and Hirans, modified Shahid kamikaze drones developed in Iran, he added.

And since Russian missiles can potentially reach any Ukrainian airfield modified for F-16s, Kiev can only use them as airfields for refueling, Zhirokov explained.

Ukraine's top officers they hope to acquire AIM-120 air-to-air missiles that could end Russia's biggest advantage on the battlefield.

A very valuable gift

In the past year, Russian planes have not had to fly over actual Ukrainian positions, as KAB heavy bombs can penetrate tens of kilometers and accurately destroy the most fortified buildings.

KABs have become a “miracle weapon that brings results and has practically no countermeasures,” Deep State, a Telegram channel with connections to the Ukrainian military, wrote in March. The KAB secured the widespread capture of Avdiivka and many other towns in eastern Ukraine.

Only one or two F-16s will be stationed on Ukrainian soil to intercept Russian aircraft carrying KABs, a German military analyst said.

“F-16s are a very valuable gift, and very few provided to Ukraine to risk them,” Nikolai Mitrokin of Germany's University of Bremen told Al Jazeera. They are unlikely to engage in direct combat with Russian fighters and their duels will be limited to “not very effective” missile strikes, he said.

The F-16s will also engage surface targets – but only from ranges that preclude the use of Russia's S-300 and S-400 air defense systems, he added.

“Fighters twice as old as their pilots'

Ukraine's air force has been neglected and underfunded for decades.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kiev ceded its fleet of Soviet-era bombers to Moscow .

Half of Russia's 16 Tu-160 bombers that can carry 45 tonnes of bombs or a dozen missiles belonged to Kiev – and were “transferred” along with hundreds of missiles in the late 1990s as payment for Moscow's natural gas.

Ukraine's “newest” fighter jet is a Su-27 built in 1991 — and other aircraft are often “twice the age of their pilots,” Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ikhnat said in televised remarks on 2023.

Kiev has about 50 MiG-29s and two dozen Sukhoi 27 fighter jets, whose notoriously flawed radars have a short detection range and can be easily jammed by the Russians.

Moscow uses newer and better-equipped MiGs and Sukhois, and Ukraine destroyed at least a dozen at airfields in occupied territories or mainland Russia.

Kiev has lost at least 22 of its MiGs, but Germany, Poland and Slovakia have donated 27 similar aircraft which became primarily a source of spare parts.

And while Western nations such as France and Sweden offered their advanced fighter jets, Washington pressured Kiev to accept the F-16s to ensure their use in Ukraine for in the coming decades, experts say.

“This is about the defense of the US military-industrial complex and a question of geopolitical influence,” Kiev-based analyst Alexei Kush told Al Jazeera.

Source: 24h.com.cy

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