West's F-16s may be no match to Russia's missiles: Bloomberg
The F-16s the West has promised Ukraine may not be up to the challenge as they are touted to be.
The F-16s that the West is thinking about giving Ukraine and that the latter is ecstatic about finally getting may be all bark and no bite, especially taking into consideration the might of the Russian air defense systems, battle-hardened F-16 pilots believe, as per Bloomberg.
Soldiers who have flown the F-16 in combat said the fighter jet was not going to be a game-changer for Ukraine, as it would strictly be stuck between two areas: either on the defense or on the highly-risky offense, particularly in high-risk operations. The high risk stems from the fact that they would easily be shot down by Russia's advanced air defense systems.
Admittedly, the F-16s will be a much better alternative to the fighter jets that Ukraine currently has, as its aerial fleets are comprised of old, Soviet-era fighters that, while good at the time, are somewhat inadequate in this day and age. Regardless, the F-16s Ukraine will be getting will still be no match to their Russian counterparts, as the fighters will have inferior radars and shorter-range missiles than the fighters Russia has on its tarmacs.
Bloomberg revealed a harsh truth that needed to be said: Kiev will "have to rein in their stated expectations that the F-16s will enable them to impose air superiority", intercept the highly sophisticated cruise missiles in Russia's possession in addition to its aircraft, inflict major losses on the Russian artillery and soldiers, and sink the Black Sea Fleet.
That is not to say there won't be advantages, as US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall stressed that the renowned F-16s will give Kiev "an incremental capability that they don’t have right now."
Meanwhile, a former US Air Force F-16 pilot told Bloomberg that if the Ukrainians were to take their F-16s toward the Russian lines in a bid to take out artillery, air defenses, or jets, they would get an alert to signal detection by enemy radar long before they are close enough to the Russians' positions to shoot.
"All you can do is dive for the dirt and hope you can put a hill between you and the missile's guidance systems," said John Venable, noting that without the cover in question, a pilot's chances of survival are incredibly low.
Meanwhile, even when the terrain is good enough for pilots to seek cover, a lot of skill would be required for them to inflict damage upon Russia, though the F-16 would be easier to use than the Sukhois and the MiGs they currently have.
Another expert, pilot Dan Hampton, who flew 151 combat missions in the F-16, underlined that the Russian air defenses would be a major obstacle in Ukraine's way, though they would still be an upgrade from the Soviet-era aircraft.
The S-400s were developed to defeat 4th generation aircraft like the F-16, Hampton underlined.
Meanwhile, other experts are calling for the F-16s to be deeply integrated and supported by ground-based radars, layered air defenses, and advanced warfare capabilities so as to maximize the advantages they would give Ukraine, such as former British Air Marshall Edward Stringer said.
There are still many drawbacks to the F-16s, as they are equipped with light landing gear and a protected air intake slot on the underside of the fuselage, which means clean runways are always a necessity for landing, a problem the MiG does not have.
An additional drawback is the fighter's price, with a Congressional Research Service report in March saying each package is $209 million, including munitions and training. The data comes from a sale of F-16s to Bulgaria. Moreover, older F-16s sold to Italy in 2015 cost $23.8 million per aircraft.
US President Joe Biden said earlier in May that the United States was endorsing supplying Kiev with F-16 fighter jets, underlining that it would support the efforts to train Kiev's pilots.
Similarly to the Bloomberg report, a Responsible Statecraft report by Daniel Davis said the F-16s would not fundamentally alter the course of the war and raises questions about the eventual objective of the US for deciding to deploy them in Ukraine.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Kiev was still not ready for F-16s and that the United States and its allies would choose which nations and how many would provide Kiev with these aircraft.
It is worth noting that the Ukrainian President has been desperate for fighter jets, repeatedly pushing for advanced Western jets, but Kiev's international supporters had balked at doing so until recently.
"We have freedom, give us wings to protect it," Zelensky told UK Members of Parliament as he toured European countries in the hope of securing fighter jets back in February.
Various countries have begun training Ukrainian pilots on flying F-16 warplanes as Kiev seeks to secure the US-made jets to supplement its forces for its spring offensive against Russia.
However, Ukraine plans to receive the first F-16 fighters from international donors in the early fall, said Yuri Sak, an advisor to the Ukrainian defense minister.
"I would estimate that end of September, early October, we could see the first F-16s flying in the Ukrainian airspace," Sak was quoted by The Washington Post as saying.