Delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine will not automatically give Kiev air superiority over Russian forces, experts say Newsweek.
“Ukrainian forces should first confront Russian forces and “erode their land-based air defenses,” former Air Marshal Greg Bagwell told Newsweek.
Ukraine has long called for the delivery of advanced Western-made fighter jets to upgrade its aging Soviet-era fleet.
Experts have suggested that the fourth-generation US-made F-16 would be the best choice for Ukraine’s armed forces and would represent a significant upgrade to its air force.
However, some analysts say that the provision of F-16 aircraft is not a “silver bullet” for the Ukrainian Air Force.
There are several hurdles to overcome before the F-16 can be used successfully, and the planes alone are not enough to dominate the airspace.
They will need properly trained ground crews and pilots, sufficient air defense systems to protect their bases, and an adequate supply of missiles.
Earlier this month, Britain’s Ministry of Defense announced it was supplying Ukraine with Storm Shadows missiles, giving Kiev longer-range strike capabilities.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has since announced that it intercepted several of those cruise missiles.
“The key for Ukraine is also to prevent Russia from establishing its own air superiority,” Bagwell believes.
Since the beginning of the war, Western analysts have said that Russia has failed to dominate the airspace over Ukraine.
In November 2022, the British Ministry of Defense said that Russia’s continued lack of air superiority was likely due to factors such as the loss of its experienced crews, poor training and the risks of conducting operations against Ukrainian air defenses.
“It’s hard to say what impact the F-16 would have on the air war and who would be able to establish air superiority,” said David Jordan, co-director of the Freeman Institute for Air and Space at King’s College London.
However, the F-16 in Ukrainian hands increases Kiev’s chances of securing “a more favorable air situation” at key points, “enabling a higher level of air support for its own forces, while increasing the risk to Russian troops.”
“However, there are multiple factors at play,” Jordan told Newsweek, which means it’s hard to predict how the balance will tip.
Although no F-16s have been offered so far, several countries – including the UK and the US – have pledged to train Ukrainian pilots on the jets.
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