Former F-16 pilot says he doesn’t want to fly missions over Ukraine now, claiming ‘no chance to fight’


A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon of the 408th Fighter Squadron at Spandahlem Air Force Base, Germany, conducts a training sortie on September 9, 2015.

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon of the 408th Fighter Squadron at Spandahlem Air Force Base, Germany, conducts a training sortie on September 9, 2015.US Air Force photo by Tech.Sergeant Jason Robertson/Release

  • Ukraine has repeatedly asked the United States for a fourth-generation fighter like the F-16.

  • However, air combat experts argue that these aircraft would have little effect on the battlefield.

  • A former F-16 pilot said these jets had no fighting chance given Russia’s air defense system.

Ukrainian officials have long pressured Western military backers to send the latest fighter jets. Some in the West agree, arguing that Kiev needs an increased air force to defeat invading Russian forces, while others argue that fighter planes like the ones Ukraine wants cannot stand. increase. Opportunities in the current threat environment.

Calls for the delivery of American-made F-16s have repeatedly been heard, leading to debate about how effective the fourth-generation aircraft will be in the skies. One of his former F-16 pilots told Insider he doesn’t want to attempt to fly over Ukraine right now, arguing that the aircraft can’t outmaneuver Russia’s air defense systems.

Fourth-generation fighters “are nothing on the modern battlefield,” John Venable, a 25-year U.S. Air Force veteran, told Insider in a recent interview.

Since Russia launched a full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has sought Jet fighters from Western allies will need to supplement the dwindling number of Soviet-era MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters. competition against the dominant Russian air force.

Ukrainian F-16 Mirgorod

California and Alabama Air National Guard replace an F-16’s air data controller at Milgorod Air Force Base during Exercise Safe Sky July 25, 2011.US Air Force/Technology.Sergeant Charles Vaughan

Kiev has repeatedly asked Washington for Americans fighter Like the F-15, F/A-18 and F-16, Undersecretary of Defense Colin Carr told Congress in late February that the Biden administration punted He argued that aircraft like the F-16 were not what Ukraine needed.

Some legislators and military officials pressed to the Pentagon send F-16s fly to Ukraine, one retired U.S. Air Force colonel said corner Over Russia over the battlefield.

But other air warfare experts and officials say providing Ukraine with F-16s is too much. lift heavy objects For the Kiev military, in addition to the need to set up critical maintenance and support facilities, these fighters will struggle to survive in the current threat environment and will have little impact in a serious conflict.

Previously as an insider report, the commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe, Gen. James Hecker, argued earlier this year that jets were not needed now, saying, “Russia and Ukraine’s success in integrated air and missile defense has made many of them.” Worthless aircraft described. “

F-16 fighter jets likely to outperform Russian air defense systems

The airspace over Ukraine remains contested after 14 months of war. However, according to recent reports, Russia enjoys a numerically larger air force, more powerful fighter technical capabilities, and a long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. report On Russian air power announced by the Naval Analysis Center.

A capable SAM system has “proven to be highly lethal” against Ukrainian aircraft and is a “major killer” of Ukrainian jets, helicopters and drones, the report said. pointed out.

Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29

MiG-29 of the Ukrainian Air Force at a military air base in Ukraine, November 23, 2016.NurPhoto by Danil Shumkin/Getty Images

Thanks to advanced air defense systems like Russia’s S-400, 4th and 4th generation fighters without stealth capabilities like the F-16 are “outright outperforming in high-threat environments.” ‘ argued Venable, a veteran and senior researcher. Defense Policy Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

of Commentary Venable, published last month on the think-tank’s website, said the S-400 could outmaneuver the F-16’s targeting system and previously target fighter jets, among other reasons. 16 writes that it is not suitable for the Ukrainian Air Force. They are within range to fire weapons like small caliber bombs.

“Giving more MiG-29s to Ukraine will not do anything on the battlefield. Even if it does, it won’t change or affect the battlefield within a year because of the spring offensive,” he said in an insider interview this week, referring to the long-awaited Ukrainian counterattack.

Early in his pilot career, when flying F-16s over Europe, Venable learned that his aircraft had the robustness to withstand the threat posed by the SA-6 and SA-11 Soviet-era SAM systems. He said it was equipped with a powerful jamming pod. If he knew that he was backed by the HARM targeting system, which was designed to counter the Soviet air defense systems that were integrated in the 1980s and he was in the 1990s, that he would be comfortably hostile. I explained that I was able to

S-400 missile launch in Russia

An S-400 missile is fired at the Ashuruk military base in southern Russia during an exercise on September 22, 2020AFP via DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty Images

“The threat would have been high. There was a good chance that I would be shot down, but at least there was an equal chance that I would reach the target, hit the target, and then I would be shot down. Successful fall. and safely exit the battlefield,” said Venable.

However, since then there has been a “complete leap in functionality” between them and the current Russian SAM system, which has evolved over time. “I had a fighting chance then,” he said. “We have no chance to fight today.”

Deploying F-16s to Ukraine does not appear to be currently being considered, but what the United States can do is train the Ukrainian Air Force on how to use fighter jets and bring them up to Western standards, Venable said. In other words, the United States was able to direct Ukrainians to Western coordination – learning about specific technologies, logistics supply lines, maintenance, hydraulic systems, and fighter tactics.

“The ultimate goal is not to put the F-16 into combat, but to spin it up on Western standards, and if so, NATO standards. It makes that step much easier,” he said.

Questions remain as to whether the US will eventually send its newest fighter jets to Ukraine, but NATO countries such as Poland and Slovakia have already pledged to send MiG-29s to Kiev.

Slovakia’s Defense Minister Dzharo Nad said he was “proud to be on the right side and doing the right thing to #save lives”. I have written “We stand with Ukraine,” he said on social media in mid-April after all the jets his country had promised to Ukraine were handed over to the Air Force in Kiev.

Read the original article at business insider