TechF-16 fighters bound for Ukraine as Western allies bolster defence

F‑16 fighters bound for Ukraine as Western allies bolster defence

Belgian F-16A/B MLU.
Belgian F-16A/B MLU.
Images source: © Lic. CC BY 2.0, Peter Gronemann, Wikimedia Commons | Peter Gronemann
Przemysław Juraszek

10 July 2024 22:56

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed that Dutch and Danish F-16 fighters are already headed to Ukraine. Additionally, by the end of 2024, six more units from Norway will join them.

The F-16 planes, promised for over a year, will be protecting the Ukrainian sky this summer, and in two days, another substantial support package is expected to be announced. Additionally, at the NATO summit, support for Ukraine in its pursuit of joining the North Atlantic Alliance was confirmed.

Ukraine is set to receive 79 planes, but deliveries will be spaced out over time. Thirty planes will come from Belgium, 24 from the Netherlands, 19 from Denmark, and six from Norway.

F-16 planes for Ukraine - older versions feared by the Russians

The aircraft donated to Ukraine are modified variants of the F-16A/B MLU (Mid-Life Update) due to extensive modernisation from the 1990s. The most important aspect of this modernisation was the integration of F-16 planes with AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, which have a range of around or over 100 kilometres, depending on their version, and the installation of a radar appropriate for their range.

However, in the case of the versions for Ukraine, other changes were most likely made in the last year. Since unique weapons, such as French AASM Hammer bombs, are being integrated with the F-16, it can be expected that the use of, for example, targeting pods like the AN/ASQ-213 HTS, enabling the full utilisation of anti-radiation missiles AGM-88 HARM or precise bombs from the JDAM-ER or Paveway families is just a formality.

This does not change the fact that Ukrainian F-16s will be machines with fewer capabilities than, for example, the new versions of the F-16C/D Block 52+ used in Polish aviation.

However, Ukrainian aviation is currently operating with the remnants of available machines, and any support, even with machines from the 1990s, will be a huge help for them. F-16s could, for example, be used to hunt down Russian cruise missiles or drones flying over western Ukraine, similar to what happened with Israel.

The F-16s will also most likely be used for more intense bombing of Russians on some front sections, an effort currently done sporadically by planes like the MiG-29s. It is also possible that the presence of F-16s will lead to more sparing use of aviation by the Russians, as they will lose air dominance resulting from the weakness of Ukrainian aviation.

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