Ukraine’s F-16 Fighting Falcon Conducts First Sortie Dropping Precision Guided Bombs On Russian Position In Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen sit in a F-16 fighter jet at Skrydstrup airbase in Vojens, Denmark, on August 20, 2023 [Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen via Reuters]

The first US-made F-16 fighter jets have appeared in the sky over Ukraine, but there’s already a bounty on them.

Fores, a Russian company that produces equipment for oil drilling, said that it would pay 15 million rubles, or about $170,000, to the first Russian pilot who shoots down an F-16.

 In recent weeks, reports have appeared in international and Ukrainian media about possible strikes by F-16 fighter jets on Russian positions inside Ukrainian territory, reported Xavier Tytelman, who wrote on his Twitter account:

“I had rumors, but now it is confirmed – the first strike was carried out by an F-16, confirmed by direct contact in the International Legion.”

Despite the lack of official confirmation, several sources indicate that F-16 fighters could already arrive on the territory of Ukraine and begin combat sorties.

Ukraine’s first declared strike on Russian soil with Western weapons on 7 June 2024 may have been based on a misunderstanding of these restrictions.

“The Defence Forces of Ukraine attacked the Kerch ferry crossing with ATACMS [US Army Tactical] missiles, which the enemy actively used to secure its grouping of troops in temporarily occupied Crimea,” announced Ukraine’s general staff.

F-16 fighters are the most combat-experienced aircraft in the world. Developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) in the 1970s, these multi-role fighters have been used extensively in all Gulf and Afghan conflicts.

Acquiring and deploying the F-16 could be a game-changer for Ukraine’s military potential. This move is likely to significantly alter the dynamics of the conflict and pose a serious challenge to the Russian air force, especially considering that Kyiv is set to receive about 100 fighters in total.

The International coalition is a key player in the current conflict, standing by Kyiv’s side and providing experienced fighters and specialists from various countries ready to support the cause.

Ukraine has been maintaining secrecy about Western weapons such as ATACMS, which were supplied to Ukraine secretly. The West is maintaining the confidentiality of its arms supplies, trying to create a surprise effect for Russia.

If information about using F-16s in Ukraine is confirmed, this will be a significant step in the conflict. Deliveries of Western-made fighters could improve the situation in Ukraine.

It is obvious that measures will be taken to quickly neutralise the combat aircraft transferred to Kyiv, but this will require a lot of time, especially considering that Kyiv is still using its fighters, which have not yet been hit since 2022.

“Understandably, they will be hunted down,” Lieutenant General Ihor Romanenko, ex-deputy head of Ukraine’s general staff of armed forces, told Al Jazeera. “But we will serve, hide, equip, and use them.”

The first dozen F-16s are expected to arrive in Ukraine within weeks as their pilots complete their training.

The single-engine aircraft, the Fighting Falcon or the Viper, has been featured in countless Hollywood action movies and video games.

Therefore, he said the F-16s will be used “exclusively” as carriers of high-precision weapons.

These days, the Ukrainian Air Force has US-made GBU precision-guided bombs that can glide for about 100km (62 miles) to their targets.

They also use Joint Direct Attack Munition kits that turn average “dumb” bombs into precision-guided munitions and also received French-made AASM-guided bombs, he said.

He said the F-16s will intercept Russian cruise missiles and Herans, modified Shaheed kamikaze drones developed in Iran.

And as Russian missiles can potentially reach any Ukrainian airfield modified for F-16s, Kyiv may use them only as “jump airfields” for refuelling, Zhrokhov said.

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