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F-16s for Ukraine
Ukraine has long sought advanced jets and President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the move as a “historic decision.”
The F-16 is widely used by a number of European and Middle East nations as well as the US, which still manufactures the aircraft.
The F-16 is a strategic and valuable choice for many customers around the world seeking advanced fighter aircraft capabilities, regional and worldwide partnerships, and affordable lifecycle costs. More than 3,100 F-16s are operating today in 25 countries. The F-16 has flown an estimated 19.5 million flight hours and at least 13 million sorties. Today’s latest version, the Block 70/72, offers unparalleled capabilities and will be flown by six countries and counting.
Ukrainian F-16s Vs Russian Su-35s
Will the Ukrainian F-16s have a good chance against the Russian Su-35s?
‘A decent chance, at the very least. The Danish, Netherlands, and Belgian F-16s, all have received the MLU and are equivalent to a Block 52 F-16, or greater.
‘F-16s vs Su-35s would likely amount to a long-range sniper duel, so the radars of these planes matter a lot.
‘MLU (Mid-Life Update) F-16s have received the AN/APG-66 radar. This is an advanced radar, and better in some respects to the Su-35’s IRBIS-E radar, but not in every instance. The Su-35 [NATO reporting name: Flanker-E] may locate Ukrainian F-16s first, but not by much, and when they get a lock, versus when the F-16s can get a lock…matters a lot.
‘On the other hand, some F-16s have received the AN/APG-83, an AESA radar which far outstrips the performance of the Su-35’s IRBIS-E. In fact, in October 2023, F-16s were delayed being delivered to Ukraine. In November 2023, Ukrainian MP Alexandra Ustinova, indicated Ukraine wanted to ensure F-16s for Ukraine all get the AN/APG-83. Installing these radars would take months, and then we find out sending F-16s to Ukraine would be delayed…by months.
‘Are these news reports connected, or just isolated instances? I don’t know. We’ll have to see.
Ukrainian F-16s may hold the advantage in the long-range against Russian Su-35s
‘If Ukraine does get F-16s with the AN/APG-83, that’s very good news for Ukraine. F-16s may hold the advantage in the long-range sniper duel. It may or may not result in Su-35s shot down, but it could result in pushing Russian CAP aircraft out of position, and establishing temporary air superiority.
‘Even if Ukraine receives F-16s with the AN/APG-66 radar, this system is leagues beyond anything Ukraine currently has. And as I have found during this conflict, Ukrainian fighters are more expert at doing more, with less, than any military in the world.’
‘Oh, and for anyone who wants to claim these are “old” F-16As, the MLU included structural updates worth carrying these planes safely into service well into the mid-2000s. These planes have got a lot of years left on them.’
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Russian Air and Space Force