Russia’s adapting air defenses means Ukraine’s new F-16s are an example of weapons that are ‘no longer relevant:’ senior Ukrainian officer

Ukraine’s long-awaited F-16s are an example of weapons systems that are “no longer relevant” once they end up in Kyiv’s hands, a senior Ukrainian officer told Politico....CONTINUE READING

Russia has already learned how to counter F-16s in a way that would minimize their battlefield potential, said the unnamed officer, who, per Politico, worked under former Ukraine armed forces head Valery Zaluzhny.

In an article published on Wednesday, Politico’s opinion editor Jamie Dettmer wrote that the outlet spoke to several top officers under the condition of anonymity.

One of Dettmer’s sources was this officer, who lamented about the F-16s and said they were arriving too late to make a difference.

“Every weapon has its own right time. F-16s were needed in 2023; they won’t be right for 2024,” the officer said.

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Dettmer wrote that the officer cited the F-16s as an example of how “we just don’t get the weapons systems at the time we need them.”

“They come when they’re no longer relevant,” the officer said.

According to this high-ranking officer, the Kremlin has been preparing for the arrival of the F-16s on the southern front by range-finding with missiles.

He said that these missiles, fired without their warheads, are informing the Russians on how to best place their S-400 defense systems to cover the frontline and limit where the F-16s can operate.

A coalition of countries led by the US, Denmark, and the Netherlands has since mid-2023 been training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s, and Kyiv is expected to soon receive up to 60 of the NATO aircraft.

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The F-16s are expected to greatly increase Ukraine’s strike capacity if fitted with long-range missiles.

They’ve long been sought after by Kyiv, which hopes they can help Ukraine claw its way to air superiority — even though the arriving F-16s will be secondhand and likely several decades old.

One pilot told Ukrainian media they’re a massive step up from the Soviet MiGs he usually flies, comparing the upgrade to going from “a Nokia, straight to an iPhone.”

But Politico’s new report also sheds light on frustrations within Ukraine about the equipment its troops are receiving. The most prominent shortage is ammunition for the Western artillery and weapons that Kyiv received in the earlier days of the war.

With shells running dry, Ukraine says it is struggling to make gains and hold back Russia’s advance.

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It’s unclear if this one officer’s assessment is shared widely among Ukraine’s forces and the country’s military brass.

Voice of America, owned by the US government, published an interview in February with a Ukrainian pilot who said his comrades were impressed by the F-16s and found that they “exceeded their expectations.”

But another officer who spoke to Politico shared a philosophy about the war that reflected his colleague’s F-16 remarks — that weapons quickly become redundant once used.

“The Russians are always studying,” he told the outlet. “They don’t give us a second chance. And they’re successful in this.”

TheUkrainian Air Force and Air Force Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside regular business hours by Business Insider.