What The Heck Is Up With F-16s To Ukraine? – OpEd


By Dave Patterson

When it comes to anything other than throwing taxpayer dollars at Ukraine, President Joe Biden is incapable of making timely decisions. Providing F-16s is a perfect case in point. More than a year ago, the proposal was to offer greater fighter capability to the Kyiv government to replace the attrition in its Cold War-era Soviet MIG-29 force. From the first day of the unprovoked Russian invasion roughly 19 months ago, Ukraine warfighters desperately needed more effective weapons to fight Moscow’s attacking hordes.

US dollars cannot make up for late-to-need decision-making. Among others, Kyiv identified the F-16 as a candidate more than a year ago. “Ukraine is asking for more modern F-15 and F-16 fighter jets from the US and Western allies that it says could be pushed into the fight against Russia within weeks, but experts say the proposal is unlikely and unrealistic,” Thomas Novelly wrote for Military.com in April 2022. The Pentagon said no. However, a year later, as Liberty Nation reported in May 2023, at the G7 meeting in Japan, Biden did an about-face and agreed to allow other nations to provide F-16s and the training. Decision reversals are trending in this admministration.

F-16s Bring New Capability to the Ukrainian Air Force

It’s important to understand that the Falcon jet — first introduced in the 1970s – would bring impressive and continuously upgraded capabilities to the fight in Ukraine. In its more contemporary versions, the F-16 is a multi-role fighter, highly maneuverable, with air-to-air and ground attack capabilities. A crucial attribute of the air-to-ground role is the supersonic fighter’s ability to locate, identify, and engage ground and low-flying targets in low-visibility weather conditions. It has enhanced electronic warfare systems and countermeasures and uses advanced fly-by-wire flight controls. The fighter is a leap in capability for Ukraine’s air force.

“The United States has approved sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands to defend against Russian invaders as soon as pilot training is completed, a US official said on Thursday (Aug. 17),” Reuters reported. Looking at the historical litany of the Biden defense team’s decisions, remember that it said no to replacing the Ukrainian MIG-29s with Poland’s MIG-29s before saying yes. The administration said no to Abrams M1-A1 tanks before it said yes. The Biden administration said no to more effective multiple-launch rocket systems before it said yes. Now after three months of handwringing and a sort-of decision at the May G-7 meeting, Biden and his national security crowd re-decided in August to say yes to F-16s for Ukraine. However, if you get the idea, this is Biden leaning in to support Ukraine with effective air power; it will take months before the aircraft can be delivered. Politico, putting a happy face on the White House agreeing to the transfer of F-16s, said the move signals “a new sense of urgency from Washington to get fighter jets to the battlefield as soon as possible.”

As soon as the Biden administration announced its “official approval,” US military leaders in Europe began dismissing the importance of the upgraded capability. In comments to the Defense Writers Group, Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of US Air Forces Europe and US Air Forces Africa, “downplayed the significance the F-16s may have in helping Ukraine combat Russia’s invasion, saying the capability won’t be a ‘silver bullet’ but will simply ease Ukraine’s use of air-to-ground weapons already being provided,” Air & Space Forces Magazine reported. Additionally, Hecker doesn’t see the F-16s arriving before next year and proficiency with the aircraft not developed for “four or five years down the road.” Biden might want to signal his “new sense” of urgency to his European air component commander. Hecker seems to abide by the White House’s old sense of urgency.

Ukrainian Fighter Pilots View Flying F-16s Differently

Hecker’s view on the value of the F-16s in the hands of Ukrainian pilots mimics that of Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley. Both asserted the more capable fighter jet won’t be a “game-changer” or “magic weapon.” Unsurprisingly, the folks who don’t share that view are Ukrainian fighter pilots who are in air battles daily. It may be a news flash to US military leadership, but there are never silver bullets or game-changing magic weapons in warfare between large nations. Winning is always about the margins of capability, where one army or air force has an edge – even a small one. The F-16 fighters in battle-tested Ukrainian fighter pilots’ hands are a significant improvement over what they fly now. From that perspective, F-16s could come close to being a game-changer for Kyiv.

On a more positive note, Netherlands and Denmark, having offered to provide as many as 42 F-16s to the Kyiv government, seem more enthusiastic than US leadership. “’Please take this donation as a token of Denmark’s unwavering support for your country’s fight for freedom,’ the Danish prime minister said,” as reported by Military Times. Biden needs to understand the only player gaining from a protracted war in Ukraine is Russian President Vladimir Putin. US foot-dragging in providing Kyiv what it needs to win back territory only emboldens Moscow. A real new sense of urgency would be welcomed.

About the author: National Security Correspondent at LibertyNation.Com. Dave is a retired U.S. Air Force Pilot with over 180 combat missions in Vietnam. He is the former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller and has served in executive positions in the private sector aerospace and defense industry. In addition to Liberty Nation, Dave’s articles have appeared in The Federalist and DefenseOne.com.

Source: This article was published by Liberty Nation

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