The delivery of Western F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine can change the situation on the battlefield only if the Ukrainian Armed Forces receive at least 100 aircraft, Austrian analyst Tom Cooper said in his article on air bomb technology as an element of air warfare.
The expert analyzed the use of glide bombs by the Russians on the front line and their modernization for control and guidance. Cooper says that the effectiveness of these bombs is much lower than it could be with a different fuse. The analyst believes that an insufficient number of F-16s will not help in this context.
“Talking further about the issue of defence from glide-bomb attacks, I must disagree with those who think that ‘F-16s’ might be a solution for this problem. There are multiple reasons for this. The frontline in Ukraine – regardless if on the ground or in the skies – is huge. PSU would have to get lots of F-16s to keep, say, at least 4-8 of them airborne at any time of the day, so to enable their quick – or at least timely – reaction to Russian glide-bomb attacks,” Cooper writes.
The type’s primary air-to-air weapon is too short-ranged to target, for example, incoming Su-34s from more than 50km away. To obtain such a long-range shot with an air-to-air weapon, the F-16 would have to operate at high altitudes (5,000m and more), which in turn would fully expose it to the Russian manned interceptors equipped with long-range air-to-air missiles, or to such Russian long-range surface-to-air missiles.
“With other words: F-16 is no solution. At least not until there would be some 100+ of them in Ukraine. Meteor-armed EF-2000s or Rafales might be one, but even then: Ukraine would still have to receive a large number of these to become capable of effectively countering incoming Russian Su-34s at all sectors of the frontline,” Cooper concluded.
The full text of the expert’s analytical material is available here.