F-16 fighter jets: a strategic game changer in Ukraine's air defense against Russia

Ukraine is set to receive the long-anticipated F-16 fighter jets in the near future.

"Primarily, the F-16 will be utilized to destroy both aerial and surface targets from a distance where the F-16 itself will not come under enemy fire. This means employing a safety buffer with long-range missile technology, both air-to-air and air-to-surface," explained military-political analyst from the "Information Resistance" group, Alexander Kovalenko, during a national news broadcast.

Kovalenko noted that the F-16 fighters would be assisted in their missions by AWACS aircraft. He stated that while striking enemy aircraft is part of their mission, the F-16s will also impact ground operations and have the capability to execute strikes on Russian territory. However, their efficacy will differ depending on the operational theater.

"In the South and Crimea, it will be particularly challenging for the Russians because these are locations where Western AWACS aircraft can operate relatively freely. Not just those handed over to us but also ones operating from Romanian and Bulgarian airspace," emphasized Kovalenko.

He mentioned that reconnaissance aircraft over the Black Sea also significantly expand the strike capabilities of the F-16s. These fighters can launch AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles capable of taking out targets over 100 kilometers away. Additionally, these "birds" can deploy AGM-158 JASSM missiles, similar to the Storm Shadow, which can hit targets up to 300 kilometers away. Essentially, this involves a subsonic air-launched cruise missile whose targeting will be simplified given the F-16's compatibility with AWACS.

“There is a different equation for the East. For operations in the East, using the safety buffer provided by Romanian or Bulgarian airspace won't be an option, necessitating reliance on Ukrainian airspace,” the expert pointed out.

According to him, success in the East depends on the security buffer available for the F-16s and the depth of operations in the occupied eastern territories and Russian territory that would allow for the safe execution of their mission.

"However, the risk escalates when the F-16s operate along the eastern frontline or the northeastern borders," Kovalenko confirmed.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that Ukraine has the right to target legitimate military objectives within Russia using F-16. He emphasized that this right is assured by the United Nations Charter's provision on self-defense.

Media reports indicated that Romania would finance the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 jets. The Romanian government has made several exceptions despite practicing "austerity measures" to help set up a specialized training center and create conditions for the training flights.

  War in Ukraine, F-16