F-16s for Ukraine

As already reported, the US will allow its Western allies to supply Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, including American-made F-16s, in a major boost for Kyiv.

Ukraine has long sought advanced jets and President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the move as a “historic decision.”

The F-16 is widely used by a number of European and Middle East nations as well as the US, which still manufactures the aircraft.

The F-16 is a strategic and valuable choice for many customers around the world seeking advanced fighter aircraft capabilities, regional and worldwide partnerships, and affordable lifecycle costs. More than 3,100 F-16s are operating today in 25 countries. The F-16 has flown an estimated 19.5 million flight hours and at least 13 million sorties. Today’s latest version, the Block 70/72, offers unparalleled capabilities and will be flown by six countries and counting.

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Ukrainian F-16s Vs Russian Su-35s

Will the Ukrainian F-16s have a good chance against the Russian Su-35s?

Eric Wicklund, former US Navy Operations Specialist, explains on Quora;

‘A decent chance, at the very least. The Danish, Netherlands, and Belgian F-16s, all have received the MLU and are equivalent to a Block 52 F-16, or greater.

‘F-16s vs Su-35s would likely amount to a long-range sniper duel, so the radars of these planes matter a lot.

Su-35s
Russian Air and Space Force Su-35s

‘MLU (Mid-Life Update) F-16s have received the AN/APG-66 radar. This is an advanced radar, and better in some respects to the Su-35’s IRBIS-E radar, but not in every instance. The Su-35 [NATO reporting name: Flanker-E] may locate Ukrainian F-16s first, but not by much, and when they get a lock, versus when the F-16s can get a lock…matters a lot.

‘On the other hand, some F-16s have received the AN/APG-83, an AESA radar which far outstrips the performance of the Su-35’s IRBIS-E. In fact, in October 2023, F-16s were delayed being delivered to Ukraine. In November 2023, Ukrainian MP Alexandra Ustinova, indicated Ukraine wanted to ensure F-16s for Ukraine all get the AN/APG-83. Installing these radars would take months, and then we find out sending F-16s to Ukraine would be delayed…by months.

‘Are these news reports connected, or just isolated instances? I don’t know. We’ll have to see.

Ukrainian F-16s may hold the advantage in the long-range against Russian Su-35s

Ukrainian F-16s Vs Russian Su-35s: why a Viper with AN/APG-83 AESA radar may hold the advantage in the long-range against the Flanker-E
F-16 with AN/APG-83 AESA radar

‘If Ukraine does get F-16s with the AN/APG-83, that’s very good news for Ukraine. F-16s may hold the advantage in the long-range sniper duel. It may or may not result in Su-35s shot down, but it could result in pushing Russian CAP aircraft out of position, and establishing temporary air superiority.

‘Even if Ukraine receives F-16s with the AN/APG-66 radar, this system is leagues beyond anything Ukraine currently has. And as I have found during this conflict, Ukrainian fighters are more expert at doing more, with less, than any military in the world.’

Wicklund concludes;

‘Oh, and for anyone who wants to claim these are “old” F-16As, the MLU included structural updates worth carrying these planes safely into service well into the mid-2000s. These planes have got a lot of years left on them.’

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Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Russian Air and Space Force