Ukraine Will Get F-16s, But More Challenges Are On The Horizon: If You Have A Lamborghini, You Need Something Else

Ukrainian pilots will have to face a big challenge: they will have to use modern aircraft that they have not had enough time to get used to in a fight against a strong, capable enemy. It will be harder than expected.

As long-awaited F-16 jets move closer to Ukraine and Russia continues to fire guided bombs and missiles at Ukrainian cities, officials in Kiev are scrambling for solutions to protect the precious aircraft as much as possible.

There are still problems with the necessary infrastructure, which is not yet ready, and because of this, the clashes in Kiev began before the wheels of the first F-16 sent by the Western allies touched Ukrainian soil.

Kyiv Post It looks at how these aircraft can be used and what are the biggest challenges facing the Ukrainian Air Force.

When the first F-16s arrive and what they will do

In May 2023, more than a year after Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States approved the transfer of dozens of F-16s owned by several European countries to the Ukrainian Air Force.

Since then, Russia has taken advantage of Ukraine’s almost total superiority in airspace to increase its air strikes, and with no modern fighter jets to intervene, they bomb Ukraine almost at will. Since the beginning of the year, Russia has launched nearly 200 long-range missiles and has dropped about 3,000 bombs on military and civilian targets each month.

However, Washington remained tight-lipped about the total number announced that the 85 F-16s would eventually be donated by the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

U.S. Congressman Mike Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, criticized the White House because the U.S. administration has banned deep strikes on Russian bomber air bases, even as Ukrainian pilots are days away from flying F-16 jets. Hit targets in Ukraine.

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Vadim Ivchenko, a member of the National Security Committee of the Kyiv parliament, gave an update on Tuesday about when the F-16s will arrive in Ukraine’s skies and the role they will play: “The first F-16s will approach us this month. I believe they will initially be deployed to protect us against enemy missiles and not against Russian targetsHe said in a TV interview.

Kiev plans only short-range operations with the F-16s, and currently strikes against Russian bomber bases are not taken into account, Ivchenko said.

Key questions about how the F-16s will be used are how many long-range missiles will be available and which types, as well as the types of radars the aircraft will be equipped with.

You don’t drive a Lamborghini in the Toyota Hi-Lux arena

According to open sources cited by the Kyiv Post, 10 to 15 Ukrainian pilots trained in Romania completed their training at the end of June. A small number of Ukrainian pilots have completed or are about to complete training in Arizona, US Air Force spokesmen said.

The Netherlands formally approved the export of 24 aircraft to the Ukrainian military on Tuesday, and Copenhagen announced that a core group of 50 F-16 maintenance technicians had completed training in Denmark.

Based on these data, analysts consulted by the Ukrainian publication estimated that the Ukrainian Air Force could theoretically launch a dozen planes into combat at the beginning of July at the same time, but the situation at the front and the training of pilots limit the practice to two. -Aircraft organizations make F-16 entries into actual combat much less, months at a time.

A normal, optimal size of an F-16 formation is two to four aircraft, operating with an experienced pilot who is trained and qualified to fly multiple aircraft formation leaders. As in the practice of the MiG-29 and Su-27, the aircraft is designed and built to enhance combat capability without strict control by ground crews.

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Ukrainian officials have warned that because the American jet, the F-16 Viper, a more modern version of the F-16 Viper, has special ground facilities such as bomb shelters to park the planes, engine hangars and maintenance equipment, and “cleaner” airstrips of a higher standard than Soviet-era airfields.

The F-16 was designed for optimal performance in the air, not for launching from unimproved airfields with grass and gravel runways.

The aircraft has an engine intake that can suck up debris from Soviet-era runways, and is designed to take off from clean NATO-standard airfields.

Piloting F-16s on Soviet-style airfields is like driving a high-performance Lamborghini or Ferrari sports car on a road suited for off-road vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota Hi-Lux 4×4.

So Ukraine has a serious problem ahead: the F-16s, which the West has long begged for, are coming, but the infrastructure to prevent them from being broken up or destroyed is not ready. by the enemy.

This situation has started creating tension at the military and political level.

Looting began in Kiev

In a post on Telegram on Tuesday, Ukrainian parliamentarian Mariana Pejula “ripped” at General Oleksandr Chirsky, commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, and blamed other decision-makers in the military leadership for recent Russian airstrikes against Ukrainian military airfields. They did not prepare the ground infrastructure for the F-16s to arrive soon.

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“You haven’t fixed the situation with the security of our planes, with air defense. We’re still losing them at the mercy of Russian drones and missiles, find out … without basic shelters and surveillance. How come the F-16s are here (in Ukraine)? The F-16 doesn’t change anything, this Air defenses will increase pressure and be a constant target for the Russians,” Pejula wrote.

The next day, the vice president returned to the subject, again attacking the leadership of the Air Force. “The infrastructure (for the F-16) is not ready. And Air Force Commander Nikolay Olessiuk’s approach to training pilots and crew is inexcusable. The approach of the Ukrainian Air Force is as if the partners need it, not us,” he said. Written by Pejula.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Ilya Aivlash said the Ukrainian military would “do everything possible to protect airfields from enemy attacks.” Bases for planes and crews are sometimes scattered and hidden, making it difficult for the Russians to find and attack them, he said.

“We understand that the enemy will hunt them down. That’s why a full operation is planned”, Ievlař assured. He said the actual state of preparation of ground facilities for the F-16 is a military secret, but the Ukrainian Air Force is aware of the threat and will take “some measures” to prevent effective Russian strikes against the new aircraft.

One way to protect the F-16s is to keep them on NATO territory if they don’t have a safe haven in Ukraine. But even this possibility carries a risk: Moscow has declared that warplanes taking off from outside Ukraine will be considered “legitimate targets”. NATO officials later said that meant the F-16s would not fly combat missions from bases in NATO territory.

TD

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