German Media Reveals Reason for Sudden Rush to Send F-16s to Ukraine
US Air Force F-16s take part in a military operation. File photo.InternationalIndiaAfricaWashington pivoted on the delivery of F-16s to Kiev last week, announcing plans to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the jets. The White House hasn’t provided any info on when the jets could start arriving, or what countries might send them. Major US allies including Italy and Poland have already indicated they won’t be sending theirs.There is “no alternative” to sending F-16 multirole fighter jets if Kiev is to stand any hope of not losing, given that their stocks of Western-delivered stocks of Soviet-made jets like the MiG-29 are running out, and the country needs an aircraft that’s in plentiful supply to launch its long-range Storm Shadow missiles, an analysis by a major German media outlet has concluded.According to the publication, the F-16 should also help Ukraine “gradually convert” its “entire air defense and air force to Western and NATO standards,” with the former process already underway.
"The F-16 is inherently capable of working within NATO-standard air defense. In view of the situation in Ukraine, this is imperative – after all, the Patriot missiles are not supposed to shoot down their own planes," the outlet stressed. (Although given last week’s successful Russian attacks on Ukraine's US-provided Patriots, it remains to be seen whether any will be left by the time Ukraine gets F-16s).
Russia’s Special Operation in UkraineKinzhal Missile Strike Destroyed Five Patriot Launchers in Kiev – Russia17 May, 19:01 GMTThe German publication expects F-16s “and the corresponding long-range weapons” to provide Kiev with the ability to ramp up strikes deep inside Russia, and to target important infrastructure like the Crimean Bridge.The outlet admitted that sending the planes to Ukraine won’t be without risks, with the Russians likely to “try to stem the fighter jets’ offensives using long-range surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles.”Indeed, while the export version of the Storm Shadow missile has an operational range of up to 290 km, Russia’s S-400 missile system can be fitted with the ultra-long-range 40N6E missile, which can shoot down enemy targets at distances up to 380 km.This, combined with Russia’s long-range air-to-air missiles like the R-33 and R-37 (whose range also exceeds that of the Storm Shadow) makes it unlikely that any F-16s sent to the front will survive for long. On top of that, Russia’s ability to keep an eye on the entirety of Ukraine’s airspace, and to reach its airfields with long-range missiles, dramatically increases the chances of F-16s being destroyed on the ground.MilitaryAmerican F-16s ‘Might Not Last Very Long’ if Delivered to Ukraine 27 April, 05:40 GMTWhile the F-16 has proven a reliable workhorse against state and non-state adversaries with limited or non-existent air and air defense capabilities, the plane would likely become a sitting duck if forced to face off against jets like the Sukhoi Su-35, owing to its lack of stealth and limited ability to engage these planes in air-to-air combat.According to the German media report, the decision to train Ukrainian fighter pilots now – a process that is expected to take at least four months, means Kiev won’t be getting any fighters until September at the earliest.And this in turn means that Ukraine’s long-promised “spring offensive” will be pushed back, because “major breakthroughs and large-scale troop movements are…unimaginable without air supremacy, especially since the Russian Air Force is active and can intervene in ground combat with a new type of cheap glide bomb without even entering the area of Ukrainian air defenses.”