The confrontation in the skies of the Black Sea continues, and the situation on the front remains without significant changes so far.
In the context of the current conflict, Ukraine has acquired F-16 fighters from NATO countries to balance air power in the confrontation with Russia.
This aircraft transfer has raised expectations about its effectiveness and potential to change the situation in the skies. However, the lack of local pilots represents a challenge for the full use of these combat aircraft.
Expectations of F-16 Fighters in Ukraine
Enemy aviation has suffered significant losses during the conflict, prompting Western NATO countries to consider delivering F-16 fighters to Ukraine.
Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark have pledged to train pilots and personally transfer these aircraft to the country. In addition, the United States has approved the re-export of F-16s from these countries.
Challenges due to shortage of pilots
The shortage of local pilots in Ukraine poses a significant challenge. Given this situation, the possibility has been raised that the MiG-29 combat aircraft, previously delivered by Poland and Slovakia, are also flown by non-Ukrainians.
Slovakia has ceded all 12 of its MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine, while Poland has transferred some of these planes, keeping the rest for the training of young pilots.
Role of MiG-29 aircraft in Ukraine
US-made F-16 Fighting Falcons are taking over the role of the MiG-29 jets in Poland. Bulgaria is also in a similar situation, as its Air Force has only 16 MiG-29 fighters and has yet to receive its first F-16. With this reality, NATO countries have begun transferring F-16 fighters to Ukraine.
Transfer of F-16 fighters to Ukraine from NATO
Up to 50 F-16 fighters are planned to be transferred to the country to help even the scales in the conflict.
These aircraft belong to the fourth generation, and an updated version of the F-16 AM is expected to be delivered. Specifically, the F-16A model was modified to the F-16C Block 50/52 level is one of the most common modifications of this aircraft from combat.
Features and capabilities of the F-16
A Pratt & Whitney F100 engine, capable of high speeds in flight, powers the F-16. It is armed with a 20mm M61A1 “Vulcan” cannon and can load a variety of weapons on its pylons, including the AIM-120D anti-aircraft missile, which has a maximum range of 180km. The F-16 uses the AN/APG-68 radar for target detection, with a full detection range of up to 296 km.
Despite the capabilities of the F-16, the Russian Aerospace Forces have fighters equipped with more powerful radars and long-range missiles. Fighters like the Su-35S, Su-57, and MiG-31BM are capable of detecting and shooting down aircraft at long ranges without being seen. This technological superiority challenges F-16 fighters and raises concerns regarding effectiveness in aerial combat.
Limitations of the F-16s compared to the Russian fleet
Although the F-16AMs can use cruise and anti-ship missiles, the Russian fleet’s numerical and technological advantage is significant compared to the older F-16s Ukraine will receive. These planes will not allow Kyiv to “overcome the superiority of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the skies” or significantly change the situation on the front lines.
In principle, Ukraine could receive information from early warning aircraft [AWACS] patrolling on the territory of Poland, Romania or the Black Sea. However, since they will be away from the front line, this will not provide the expected advantage to the Ukrainian Air Force in air combat.
Ukraine’s acquisition of F-16 fighters from NATO countries seeks to balance air power in the current conflict. Despite challenges from a lack of local pilots and Russian technological superiority, these aircraft are expected to provide Ukraine with enhanced combat capability in the skies.
However, the Russian fleet’s superiority in numbers and technology remains a concern for Kyiv. The confrontation in the skies of the Black Sea continues, and the situation on the front remains without significant changes so far.
FAQs on the acquisition of F-16 fighters by Ukraine
1. How many F-16 fighters are planned to be transferred to Ukraine?
It is planned to transfer up to 50 F-16 fighters to Ukraine.
2. Which version of the F-16 will be delivered to Ukraine?
An updated F-16AM version is expected to be delivered. Specifically, the F-16A model was modified to the F-16C Block 50/52 level.
3. What are the capabilities of the F-16?
The F-16 features a Pratt & Whitney F100 engine and an M61A1 “Vulcan” 20mm cannon and can load a variety of weapons. It also uses the AN/APG-68 radar for target detection.
4. Why does Russian superiority challenge F-16 fighters?
The Russian Aerospace Forces have fighters equipped with more powerful radars and long-range missiles, giving them a significant advantage in air combat.
5. How are early warning aircraft expected to support Ukraine?
In principle, Ukraine could receive information from early warning aircraft patrolling nearby areas. However, its location from the front line limits its effectiveness in air combat.