Russia-Ukraine War: Will US-Built F-16s Take On Russian Fighters? Here’s What We Know

Russia-Ukraine War: Will US-Built F-16s Take On Russian Fighters? Here’s What We Know

by Ujjwal Shrotryia - Jan 27, 2023 03:55 PM +05:30 IST
Russia-Ukraine War: Will US-Built F-16s Take On Russian Fighters? Here’s What We KnowF-16 Fighting Falcon. (Image Credit: Lockheed Martin).

After the recent announcements by the United States (US) and German governments of the transfer of tanks to Ukraine, officials in Kiev have said that the country would need F-16 fighter jets to fight the Russians, reported Reuters.

The request for F-16s comes just a day after US President Joe Biden announced the transfer of 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, after the US announcement, announced the transfer of 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine as well. The Germans also allowed other countries to re-export Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. 

Until now, both the US and the Germany were reluctant to supply tanks to Ukraine. But now that the barrier has been broken, Ukraine is now anticipating the transfer of F-16 fighter jets.

"The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets," Yuriy Sak, an advisor to Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, said. 

"If we get them, the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense... It's not just F-16s: fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want," Sak added.

"They didn't want to give us heavy artillery, then they did. They didn't want to give us Himars systems, then they did. They didn't want to give us tanks, now they're giving us tanks. Apart from nuclear weapons, there is nothing left that we will not get," Sak further added.

Until now, the US has been reluctant to transfer F-16s to Ukraine. 

But the discussions to transfer F-16 have already started in European capitals. The Dutch cabinet is mulling over the potential transfer of F-16s to Ukraine.

The US has also, now, slowly started to warm up to the idea of transferring F-16s to Ukraine. The US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told MSNBC on Thursday (26 January), that the United States would be discussing the idea of supplying fighter jets "very carefully" with Kyiv and its allies.

"We have not ruled in or out any specific systems. We have tried to tailor our assistance to the phase of the fight the Ukrainians are in," Finer said.

Just Yesterday (26 January), Financial Times (FT) reported that Lockheed Martin (the maker of the F-16) is mulling over increasing its production capacity of the F-16.

There was “a lot of conversation about third party transfer of F-16s” — whereby countries would re-export their US jets to Ukraine to defend its airspace.

Lockheed is not directly involved in talks regarding the potential delivery of military aircraft to Kyiv, Frank St John, chief operating officer of Lockheed Martin, told FT.

However, the company was “going to be ramping production on F-16s in Greenville to get to the place where we will be able to backfill pretty capably any countries, that choose to do third-party transfers to help with the current conflict,” added Frank.

Since the start of the war, the Ukrainian Air Force (UAF) is all but finished. The UAF has to make-do with a limited supply of Soviet-origin Mig-29 and Su-25 fighter jets.

The supply of F-16s will plug some holes in the UAF and will be a big capability boost.

But the effect of F-16s on the actual battlefield remains to be seen, since the Russians have an Integrated Air Defence Network and a well-functioning Air Force, which will force the F-16s to fly low on the ground, thus limiting its missile combat effectiveness.

The discussion of the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine comes just days after a major defeat of the Ukrainians at Soledar, and will go a long way in boosting the morale of the forces.

A Ukrainian pilot codenamed Juice told Reuters last month that many of his peers in the Air Force, were taking English lessons in their free time in anticipation that Kyiv would one day receive foreign aircraft such as the F-16 fighter.

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