US Navy Operations Specialist explains why although F-16s were relevant for Ukraine in 2023, Ukrainian Air Force still needs them in 2024

US Navy Operations Specialist explains why although F-16s were relevant for Ukraine in 2023, Ukrainian Air Force still needs them in 2024

By Dario Leone
Apr 5 2024
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F-16s due to arrive in Ukraine this summer are “no longer relevant”

American-made F-16s due to arrive in Ukraine this summer are “no longer relevant”, a senior Ukrainian military official has said.

The Ukrainian Air Force is expected to take delivery of the first tranche of a dozen aircraft in July after Ukrainian pilots have been trained and the country’s airfields prepared.

But on Apr. 3, 2024 Politico published an article where a Ukrainian military official says that the F-16 is arriving late. They really needed them in 2023. Here’s the actual quote:

“But often, we just don’t get the weapons systems at the time we need them — they come when they’re no longer relevant,” another senior officer said, citing the F-16 fighter jets as an example. A dozen or so F-16s are expected to be operational this summer, after basic pilot training has been completed. “Every weapon has its own right time. F-16s were needed in 2023. They won’t be right for 2024”

Ukrainian Air Force still needs F-16s

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‘That’s true,’ Eric Wicklund, former US Navy Operations Specialist, explains on Quora. ‘F-16s could have really helped out Ukraine’s 2023 counteroffensive. It almost certainly could have helped ground forces push deeper and further into Russian-controlled territory.

‘That time has passed, and the original “way” that planners wanted to use the F-16 is no longer relevant. That doesn’t mean that Ukraine no longer wants the F-16s. They still need planes for their overworked air force, and desperately so. Any more modern planes they can get are most welcome. They’ll just use them in a different place in a different “way.”

‘An “angle” that Kremlin bots are using, is the notion that the 41 promised F-16s won’t make a difference. This is yet another Kremlin misinformation campaign. Typical of the Kremlin, they’re bending, spindling, and mangling the truth.

‘They argue that just 41 planes won’t bring down the entire Russian IADS/GBAD across the 1,200 kilometer front.

‘That’s true, but they don’t tell you the other half of that military coin.

F-16 with HARM missiles. Ukraine has had HARMs for a while now, but not the the full ability of the missiles. F-16s use them natively, and that means they’ll be able to fly the SEAD mission much, much more effectively.

Kicking the door down for the Ukrainian Army

‘There’s no reason to expect them to crush everything in a day. Only Russians think that F-16s are wunderwaffe. They aren’t. F-16s would be used in particular, focused areas where Russia is weakest, and attack there. Gain temporary local air superiority, hit a certain target, and then move on. When that target gets reinforced by Russian GBAD, F-16s would simply be sent into a different weak spot (possibly the one where GBAD got moved from. There’s many options and thousands of targets.’

Wicklund concludes;

‘41 F-16s cannot win the war in a day. It won’t happen in a month. It doesn’t work like that. F-16s will not win the war by themselves, but they can kick the door down for the Ukrainian Army to do that. They can whittle down the Russian stick, wood chip by wood chip, until it snaps like a toothpick.’

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Photo credit: U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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