cormorantCrane has Ever since Russia invaded in February 2022, we’ve been asking for a fourth-generation Western fighter. American Abrams tank), demand became more and more persistent. Ukraine wants her F-16 or F-15 from America. NATO The Air Force is on the rise as deliveries of the stealthy fifth-generation F-35 increase. On January 30, President Joe Biden said America would not supply his F-16s. Will Ukraine end up getting them anyway?
Your request has become urgent. Ukraine is preparing to launch a spring offensive to retake territory, possibly before the next wave of Russian mobilization. Despite having a significant advantage over the Air Force in both numbers and capabilities, the Russian Air Force has so far failed to establish air superiority over Ukraine. This is largely thanks to her well-integrated ground-based air defense system and numerous air defense missiles derived from her S-300 surface-to-air missile of the 1970s. manpad (Missile fired from the shoulder) NATO member. These have allowed the Ukrainian Air Force to compete in the skies and provide much-needed support to ground forces.
Ukraine has not confirmed how many aircraft and pilots it has lost, but it is certainly feeling the effects of a year of attrition. To make matters worse, the barrage of missiles and drones targeting critical infrastructure and residential areas that Russia brought over the winter has left Ukraine’s stockpile of anti-aircraft missiles dangerously low. Of particular concern is Russia’s use of Iran’s Shahed-136 drones. This can provide precision strikes on poorly defended targets such as power plants. Most of the ammunition required to take them out is many times more expensive than the Shahed itself (around $20,000). We urgently need more, manpadUkrainians fear that without F-16s and other Western high-speed jets, their ability to prevent Russia from gaining air superiority will be compromised.
So why hasn’t the West supplied them yet? It is feared that it will be able to attack targets in the United States, be seen as escalating from the Kremlin, and once again pose the threat of nuclear retaliation. Another oft-cited reason is that the F-16 is a complex system. A pilot needs at least three months of training, plus mechanic training. Gaining altitude also requires considerable logistical support and a long, smooth runway. The Ukrainian Air Force says it is improving airfields across the country in anticipation of accepting Western jets, but not enough.
The first excuse has been offered each time Ukraine has demanded new or improved capabilities from the West, especially those that could be seen as offensive rather than defensive. Likewise, it does both, depending on how you use it. Also, Justin Bronk, an air force expert at the think tank RUSI, believes that employing the F-16 for strong interdiction in Russia is at the mercy of Russian surface-to-air missiles, including the deadly S-400. There are probably better ways to hit remote targets in Russia.
The second reason for not supplying aircraft is more serious, but not insurmountable. Pilot and ground crew training can begin immediately before the aircraft is sent. Douglas Barry of another think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says runways are a problem, but pilots can use dispersed airfields. These could be numerous and more difficult for the Russians to spot, but the runways are short and rough, exposing planes and pilots to greater danger. Still, if Ukrainians say they want F-16s, recent forms suggest they have a pretty good idea of how to use them.
Many Western Ukrainian supporters have become convinced that it is not enough for Ukraine to avoid defeat, and that Russia must be defeated. . Ukraine says Poland is considering doing the same. The Pentagon is said to be preparing to agree to such exports. As usual, Germany’s Olaf Scholz is a late leader. If the West believes that without better fighters, Russia will eventually establish dominance of the airspace, it should provide it. ■