Military Aviation

US Navy Operations Specialist explains why despite the Ukraine F-16 delivery delay the Viper will turn things for the better in Kyiv’s favor

F-16 Vipers for Ukraine

As already reported, the US will allow its Western allies to supply Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, including American-made F-16s, in a major boost for Kyiv.

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.

Delay to receive F-16s

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?

Eric Wicklund, former US Navy Operations Specialist, explains on Quora;

‘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.

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Ukraine F-16 Vipers will pose a far greater threat to Russian fighters

‘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.’

Wicklund concludes;

‘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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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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  • Hi to author ! ‘'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.’'

    As I wrote earlier ,current Ukrainian ex-Soviet fighters, lighter MiG-29 and heavier Su-27 have better radar then F-16C/D have ( AN/APG-68). Both Soviet radars from 70's, N019 Rubin and N001 Myech are in the same level of AN/APG-68 when we talk about max search ( detect/track ) distances ,150kms and 80nm (as 150kms) in HPRF working mode of TWT but thanks to bigger antenna reflector and more powerfull TWT, both Soviet radars have greater max detect/track distances against incoming fighter with frontal RCS of 3sqm ( 60 and 90kms respectivelly).Ukrainians modified some N001 to the level of Russian N001V in Su-27SM and SM3 and can now detect /track incoming fighter with frontal RCS of 3sqm from 150kms in narrow FoV combat mode. Both ex-Soviet radars have better energetic potential then AN/APG-68.All three of them can automatically track max 10 aircraft in TWS mode( of course, this kind of possible combat situation is almost impossible). When we talk ( write) about EW/ECM potential ,again as I wrote earlier, both, MiG-29 version 9.13 and Su-27 with their L203 Gardeniya and L005 Sorbtsyia active jamm systems are better because both systems have more powerfull and stronger waveguide units ( so more powerfull interference signals) then ECM system of F-16. AMRAAM is what ,some kind of miracle? Note : Yugoslavian MiG-29B were often engaged with salvo of 2 or even 3 or more AIM-120 AMRAAM ( during oper Allied Force in 1999 ,USAF used then operational version AIM-120C4). There was two cases in which two Yugoslav fighter-pilots evaded 2 launched AMRAAM and were hit by third. MiG-29B as export version of MiG-29 for non-WP countries did not have L203E Gardeniya active jammers. Yes ,AMRAAM has ARH in terminal phase but as I mentioned ,ARH mode can be jammed easier then SARH mode,especially with DRFM technology ECM -systems.On the other side ,Ukrainian fighters have old Soviet ( domestic made) medium/long range R-27R/ER with SARH and medium/long range R-27T/ET with IR guidance. Even MiG-29 9.12 and 9.13 subversions can carry heavier and longer range R-27ER ( 350 kgs heavy with max launch distance against bigger incoming air target of 150kms in stratosphere, with high-speed ,high-alt launch parameters).There is no AMRAAM version that can compare with so heavy R-27ER in the domain of the 'Time of aerodynamic stability and controllability'. Newer 170kgs heavy AIM-120D is in fact in the level of 250kgs heavy R-27R when we talk about max possible launch distances. Do not make from F-16 some miracle or some 'gamechanger ' because that fighter don't have combat potential for something as described in several articles where one 'USN Oper. Spec.' gave so many incorrect data and info.

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