Ukraine’s F-16 fighter jets break another weapons taboo
Rishi Sunak has pledged to provide a new level of air support
Just as wealth breeds wealth, success breeds success. At each stage of the Ukraine war, the unexpected battlefield successes of the Ukrainian armed forces have eroded the taboos among the country’s Western backers as to which sophisticated weapons systems they are willing to provide for use against the Russian invader.
The long-running debate over whether Ukraine should be gifted Western tanks, as well as the delivery of HIMARS long-range missiles and PATRIOT air defence systems, is almost forgotten now. Respectively, these advances allowed the Ukrainian army to strike Russian troops and equipment far behind the front lines, and to defend Kyiv from even Russia’s most advanced supersonic missile barrages. The latest milestone seems to have been reached in the decision of Western powers to grant Ukraine’s longstanding wish for modern jet aircraft.
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Yesterday, a Downing Street spokesperson announced that “The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Rutte agreed they would work to build [an] international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F16 jets.” This follows on from Emmanuel Macron’s recent declaration that there is “no taboo” about training Ukrainian pilots on Western aircraft.
Coupled with the long-range air-launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles given to Ukraine by both Britain and France (under their French name of SCALP missiles), this new capability provided to the Ukrainian Air Force, which has thus far exceeded initial expectations, will further challenge Russia’s already lacklustre military performance.
As the RUSI analyst Jack Watling observed in a recent briefing, the introduction of Storm Shadow will allow the Ukrainians to leapfrog Russia’s recent tactical adaptation to the threat posed by ground-based missile systems, potentially eroding its vast superiority in artillery firepower. But the defensive potential of the proposed new fleet of Western jets is perhaps as important as the offensive capacity it affords. As Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba recently wrote in a plea for jets in Foreign Policy, “F-16s will operate as one combined system with ground-based air defence, allowing us to shoot down Russian missiles long before they kill someone or destroy another energy facility.”
Over the course of the war, Ukraine has already successfully denied Russia the air superiority that was assumed as a given at the conflict’s start, preventing Moscow from repeating America’s Shock and Awe military approach. Russia’s jets are increasingly vulnerable to Ukrainian air defences on the ground, and Western fast air defences may enable Ukraine to consolidate its superiority above the battlefield. But, as ever, quantity has a quality all of its own. As Ukraine’s defence ministry cautioned to the local broadcasting outlet Hromadske, a handful of new jets will not win the war, but “2-3 F-16 squadrons [around 30 aircraft] today would significantly affect the course of hostilities — it would completely change the situation on the front.”
But the limits of Western generosity are as yet unclear. European powers have tended to break the initial taboos on arms deliveries, leaving the more cautious Biden administration to fill the quantity shortfall, but Biden has already stated the US will not provide Ukraine with F16s. Whether or not the new European commitment will erode the American President’s natural caution remains to be seen: either way, Russia’s faltering path to victory looks ever more distant.
Arm Ukraine to rid Russia of every inch including Crimea. Teach Russia to build the glory it seeks within its post-USSR borders, a vast country with enormous natural resources. Pull the plug on Ukraine immediately if it goes on any expedition beyond securing its post-USSR borders. Quit trickling in the matériel; arm them fully now, and let the West’s unflagging support for Ukraine impress Xi and China’s CCP as they salivate over the morsel Taiwan.
If Russia wanted to invade us,UK or GB,they could just pop a boat,even a leaky one,over the north Sea and land at Scarborough or Bridlington so this “domino” argument,like in Vietnam war days doesn’t work,for us anyway. That generation of British young men,mid 1960s dodged a bullet truly,the USA pres. I think it was Johnson told Harold Wilson to contribute and Wilson told him to go do one. Sensible bloke. Bet if old animated corpse Biden told Sunak,our Paki PM to launch conscription he would. Yes I know I’ve used an objectionable word.
It’s impressive to see how much delusion could come out of a single article. Failing to apprehend the reality of the Ukrainian battlefield, the author can not do better than British tabloids on the subject. In truth, he emerges as one among the myriad of ‘journalists’ not able to observe how much the information comes back distorted from the ongoing battle, not able to provide an unbiased approach to the military aspect, and therefore plunge into sentimentalism, something that I had hoped not to see on UnHerd. I do not mind, I just wonder what happened to the journalist (and journalism as a whole).
I served in the Air Force long time ago (not as a pilot) and I think author has very naive view of the capabilities of fairly old aircraft.
For a start, unless you engage anti aircraft missile batteries on Russian soil how these F16 be safe over parts of Ukraine currently occupied by Russia?
Using F16 to shut down Russian missiles looks near impossible task.
Would you have F16 on 24/7 patrol duty over Kiev?
Even assuming they can intercept Russian missiles, how long would it take for airframe and engine to wear out?
Yes, USA has thousands of F16 in storage, but so far refused to send them to Ukraine.
Author terminology is suspect.
Are HIMARs long range? No
Is Storm Shadow long range?
Not based on published specifications.
West had many years to prepare Ukraine for Russian aggression but refused to do it due to French and German naive policy of appeasing Russia.
I forgot to add for sake of comparison that Tomahawk missile with range of 1500 miles is long range.
Kennedy 1961: I am sending only military advisors to Vietnam. No US troops will be deployed.
Sunak/Macron 2023: We are only training Ukrainian pilots on planes. No one has agreed to send Ukraine F16’s.
Yeah… right. Because advisors aren’t soldiers and training people on equipment they’ll never have makes so much sense.
“The slippery slope!!”
Indeed, just making F-16s was where it all began. Much better (and cheaper!) to just disarm, and let Putin take over.
This article is delusional, the Russians have already knocked out one Patriot battery, and the Himars is no longer effective due to jamming. Ukraine Air defence is on its last legs because they are almost out of S-300 missiles
I’m not saying you’re wrong (and I don’t want to start an argument) but how do you know what you wrote in your comments is accurate?
There’s a massive PR war between Ukraine and the West vs. Russia. One side says, for example, almost all Russian missiles are now being shot down. Russia says the opposite. Who is correct and how can we know? It’s clear our governments in the West frequently lie, or at least misrepresent, about the Ukraine war. In that respect it’s the covid pandemic all over again.
I don’t trust any news source at this point, and I don’t know where to look for an accurate assessment of the course of the war. Perhaps there is no honest news outlet when it comes to this war.
The Russians claim that they destroyed the Patriot battery in Kiev, the US say its not destroyed, only damaged, either way its not working now, even if it was, 2 Patriot batteries is not a proper air defence system for a country the size of Ukraine
The US has also admitted that the Russians can jam the GPS guidance in the HIMARS shells
Nobody doubts that by now the Ukrainians are low on S-300 missiles
F-16s will last no longer than the jets the Ukraine had at the start of the war
The Ukrainians can claim that they shoot down every Russian missile, but its not hard to find videos of successful Russian strikes, they are regularly hitting high value targets
Pretty easy to judge who’s lying (apart from Scott Ritter’s obvious delusions).
There are millions of people in Kyiv, and that has recently been the prime target of Moscow. Indeed it was over the whole winter.
The idiots on Telegram might say the missiles are getting through, but nobody in Kyiv is seeing them.
Sooo…Drug, are we dealing with invisible, non-kinetic Russian missiles?
‘Cause nobody seems to see them.
Oh, and many of the jets the Ukrainians had at the start of the war are still around. That Russia has never been able to establish air superiority, or even venture over the battle front is the REAL story of this war.
A shameful end to a military that once was considered a serious threat to NATO.
But how about those Kinzhals!
Satellites could show exactly what is happening on earth and yet that technology is never mentioned in the ongoing conflict.. I must assume, therefore, that we are being fed propaganda so that Zelensky and western politicians do not lose face.
According to Wikipedia. 17.3% of Ukrainians identify themselves as Russian but this is never considered a difficulty by Western politicians and journalists who predict Russia being expelled from the country…
Probably because the overwhelming number of that 17% voted for Zelensky (a Russophone), and now feel betrayed by every Russian citizen.
Pretty simple, really, if you ever stopped and thought.
Are these actual facts or merely your take on conflicting reports about these matters ?
I despair of people who can’t tell the difference between opinion and fact.
The Russian damaged one component of one Patriot battery. A battery has a dozen or more components: launchers, radars etc. If they destroyed it, where was the follow up strike last night to take advantage?
Russia is doing so well that they haven’t gained any ground in 12 months, and have lost two major regions. Per leaked Pentagon documents they are suffering 2-3 times as many casualties as Ukraine, with a much higher ratio of dead.
I don’t know why some Westerners seem to be rooting for Russia (and who knows they may not be Westerners at all) but it’s looking like they’re going to be very disappointed soon.
I don’t think so. Anyway this war makes so much money,and for Russian business too,why would either side kill the Golden Goose.
People don’t know who to believe?
Then it’s nice to see what someone who considers himself a genuine Russian patriot (and supports this war) thinks–Strelkkov (AKA Girkin):
“Well, it came to the F-16. I predict that even before the fall, the Ukies will also receive long-range (up to 500 km range) missiles. And next year, if our amazing people do not try to surrender unconditionally earlier, NATO troops will enter the “Ukraine”. The main thing for the Kremlin cretins is to simply do nothing, and then the war will end with a joint parade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and NATO on Red Square… And I’m not kidding even once.”
Strelkov Igor Ivanovich #КРП – Telegram
(My Google browser auto-translates, BTW)
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