If Russia pollutes the runways, the US F-16 becomes unusable

The American fighter jet wanted by Ukraine – the F-16 Fighting Falcon continues to be in focus this week as well. Kiev insists on getting it to reduce Russian air superiority. The F-16 is supposed to be quite cleverly used against the upcoming Ukrainian counter-offensive. At the moment, however, Washington opposes such a delivery. Many times there have been comments from many experts that the F-16 will not be useful to the Ukrainian Air Force.

Yankees land in Taiwan to upgrade local 140 F-16A/B fighters
Photo credit: Pixabay

This desire of Kiev to get these planes is already starting to arouse serious suspicion. The right questions are being asked – is Kiev trying to acquire F-16s for free for its future Air Force fleet after the end of the war? There is a lot of logic in this statement given the potential performance of the F-16 in war.

Dozens of air warfare experts claim that Ukraine does not need the F-16. BulgarianMilitary.com has repeatedly reported that this aircraft will not bring the desired advantage to Kiev. On the contrary – it can fail him. And this failure will not be because of the characteristics of the aircraft, but because of the circumstances.

The usual obstacles

We will again lay out the usual obstacles to the F-16 and its involvement in the war in Ukraine. First, this plane cannot take off from short runways. Ukraine and its Air Force facilities were designed to Soviet designs. The MiG-29 and Su-27 are Soviet, not Western aircraft. These aircraft can not only take off from short runways, but also from rough runways. The F-16 can’t do that.

Russia struck an airbase after an attempt to seize a Russian fighter
Photo credit: SBU / Facebook

Second, the F-16 must be serviced at a depot. No one expects Russia to watch as Ukraine builds extended runways and depots to service F-16s.

Third, the F-16, due to the above circumstances, cannot be hidden. Not in an agricultural airport, not in a forest, not on the road. Why is it important? Because the Ukrainian Air Force will literally tell the Russians where the F-16 is located. Whereas, if it is easily hidden, the Ukrainians can be very mobile in the deployment of aircraft and launch surprise attacks.

The tracks

You see – we are not talking about the characteristics of the F-16, but the circumstances of the war. Now here is something important – the F-16 must take off from a clean runway. Currently, there is no clean runway in Ukraine. There won’t be as long as the war continues.

If Russia pollutes the runways, the US F-16 becomes unusable
Photo by US Air Force/Senior Airman Erica Webster

If you noticed under the nose of the F-16 there is a huge air intake. He twists everything on the runway and in the path of the F-16. This means such frequent engine failures that this plane may simply never take off. The F-16 is so fragile that runways, depots and air bases require special preparation. These are the words of another expert who believes that Ukraine does not need the F-16. His name is Justin Bronk, an air warfare analyst at the British think tank Royal United Service Institute [RUSI].


Currently, Russia is not bombing Ukrainian airfields. There is no need when they are not a factor in the war. However, if Ukraine receives Western fighter jets, the Russian aviation will most likely remove long-range air-to-surface missiles from its inventory.

In this scenario, knowing the precision required by the region where the Ukrainian F-16s are located, it is enough for the Russian aviation to hit the runway. You don’t even have to aim at the planes on the runway, or the air traffic control building. It’s enough to contaminate the track. It is enough to pour fuel on the track.

Russia struck an airbase after an attempt to seize a Russian fighter
Photo credit: SBU / Facebook

A Russian airstrike with a pair of Su-30/Su-35 and MiG-31, launching either a half-ton or one-ton bomb or an air-to-surface missile on the runway, would cause so much damage from the resulting crater that it would open up the the acurine track maintenance for at least weeks.

F-16 landing gear

A dirty runway isn’t just a problem for the F-16’s nose pod. The undercarriage of the F-16 in such conditions becomes “relatively light”, says Bronk. According to the expert, the American fighter is designed to have a relatively good thrust-to-weight ratio. This is as good as it is bad, as it doesn’t add more weight to the aircraft itself than it needs to.

Bronk recalls that we are talking about American [Western] design, which has always differed from competing Russian design. Russia’s Mikoyan and Sukhoi are designed to operate on “primitive airfields,” while American aircraft “land hard, on a floating runway.” He makes this comparison to recall that the F/A-18 was taken as the base aircraft in the design of American fighters.


Not the F-16. Ukraine wants this fighter, and if Washington decides – lets give it. But there are much better fighters that would do better in these circumstances than the F-16. Gripen is the most accurate fighter for Ukraine.

Give Ukraine a Gripen, the F-16 can't give what the Swede can
Photo credit: RSAF

Short runway, take-off from highways, take-off from agricultural airfields, field service without the need for a depot, rapid deployment every few days – all beyond technological and performance capabilities that the F-16 cannot provide. Ukraine’s problem is that Sweden is not the US. And right now, the US is funding Ukraine, not Sweden.


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