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Ukraine has long sought advanced jets and President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the move as a “historic decision.”
On Sep. 12, 2023 Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, the director of the US Air National Guard, said that the US could have the first Ukrainian pilots trained on F-16 fighter jets before the end of the year, though it will be longer than that before they are flying combat missions.
According to AP News, to meet the quick training timeframe, Tucson will likely shift some of its other international pilot training commitments to move Ukraine to the front of the line, he said.
Nevertheless, the Ukrainians would need to return to Europe for additional NATO training after completing the US training. Ukrainians are also being trained by NATO allies on how to maintain the aircraft, and that will also need to be completed before the jets would be flying combat missions. Loh did not have an estimate of how much time the additional training would take.
On average, the F-16 training will take six to nine months the nominee to become the next chief of the Air Force, Gen. David Allvin, told senators at his confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Will this delay give Russia time to prepare effective defenses to field against future Ukrainian Vipers?
‘No, the delay to receive F-16s will change nothing. If anything, Russia’s air defense in Ukraine may get weaker as they move air defense units to protect locations like Moscow and the already attacked airbase at Pskov.
‘All the Russian systems to defend against the F-16 were already there in the first few months of the war. The delay in getting the F-16 will not change anything. Luckily, the F-16 is well kitted out to attack those Russian defenses.
‘F-16s can be equipped with the AGM-88 HARM missile, a missile designed to hunt down Russian air defense units and destroy them. Ukraine has had the HARM for a while now, but while mounted on MiG-29s, it only functioned in Pre-Briefed mode. Meaning the missile could only attack an air defense unit that hasn’t moved.
‘With F-16s, all three modes of the HARM (Pre-Briefed, Target of Opportunity, and Self-Protect) are available. These other modes mean Ukrainian F-16s can find and destroy Russian defenses even if they have moved, or even if a site wasn’t part of the preflight brief. Much more effective.
‘The F-16 can also engage Russian fighters. With a far superior radar to the current Ukrainian Su-27/MiG-29, and much more modern EW, and the ability to fire the AMRAAM air-to-air missile, Ukrainian F-16s will pose a far greater threat to Russian fighters.’
‘Once F-16s arrive, Ukraine’s pilots will no longer be on the back foot in the air over Ukraine, and they will be able to threaten Russia in ways their pilots haven’t experienced yet. So, the time it takes to deploy the F-16, will not change how Russia defends itself against them. Russia’s only recourse will be to wait…and worry.’
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps / U.S. Air Force
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