Although Ukraine will get tens of F-16 fighter aircraft from its Western allies, that number will not be enough to replace the whole fleet of post-Soviet MiG planes, the spokesman of the Ukrainian Air Force has indicated.
Colonel Yuri Ihnat told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that Ukraine needs to replace its current fleet of Soviet-era planes. However, in order to do that, he revealed Ukraine would need 150 new fighter aircraft.
While he could not reveal the exact number of F-16 fighter planes Ukraine would be receiving from its Western allies, it would be well short of the number required for a full upgrade of its fleet.
Ihnat explained that Ukraine has had to modify many of the rockets supplied by Western countries to be used by its post-Soviet jets; he also said that missiles such as AGM-88 HARM rockets would be of more use and carry greater force if attached to F-16s, as they currently need to be programmed at ground level.
The spokesman for the Ukrainian air force confirmed that the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s will begin imminently, telling the news outlet that Ukrainian pilots “will receive training abroad.”
When asked about the likelihood that Ukraine would employ U.S. pilots to fly the F-16s until the Ukrainian pilots are trained, Ihnat remained tight-lipped, instead preferring to concentrate on what the deployment of F-16 will mean for Ukraine.
He said that they will help Ukraine dominate in the air where currently, he estimates, Russians enjoy a five-to-sixfold advantage and have access to more modern technology that allows their radar to have three times the reach of that currently available to Ukraine.
“Moreover, Russian rockets are armed with self-guiding warheads, but thanks to the F-16 fighters and the Patriot system we will neutralize their current superiority,” he added.
The Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said that the main objective of the Ukrainian Air Force is to “close the sky” over Ukraine and to gain the upper hand on the Russian-occupied territories. “The jets will patrol our sky and be able to move fast between airports and react to threats such as Russian rockets and drones,” he added.
Lastly, due to the superior equipment on board the F-16s, the Ukrainian military can destroy selected targets and be able to launch precision air strikes against Russian ammunition depots and their logistics.
They would also be able to patrol Ukrainian territorial waters in the Black and Azov seas and protect the convoys of grain reaching and leaving the ports. They would be able to protect southern cities such as Odessa and Kherson as well from Russian aerial attacks.