S-300/S-400s will shoot down all F-16s – Iraq/Afghan wars veteran

The comprehensive and advanced Russian air defense system is fully capable of intercepting any US F-16 fighter jets supplied to the Ukraine’s Armed Forces, according to retired US Army officer Daniel Davis. He shared this forecast on his YouTube channel. 

S-400 jointly with A-50 AEW&C shot down Su-27 and MiG-29 - Russia
Photo credit: LinkedIn

“Indeed, Russia boasts a top-notch air defense system,” Davis expressed. “Compared to Ukraine’s, and even our own, it’s multi-faceted, incredibly effective and cutting-edge.” 

In Davis’ perspective, Western nations and NATO harbor longstanding fears of the gargantuan threat Russian air defenses, alongside Su-35 fighters, would present to the F-16 in the event of direct conflict between Russia and NATO. Highlighting the F-16’s antiquity and the lengthy process of training Ukrainian pilots, he asserted that supplying Ukraine’s Armed Forces with these combat aircraft won’t impact the current battlefield scenario.

Second domain

Davis suggests that Moscow has established extensive defense systems along the Ukrainian front line. In simpler terms, the Russian military employs a variety of interceptors, engaging an incoming weapon at multiple stages of its trajectory to enhance the effectiveness of the overall system. 

Apart from ground defenses, Moscow has also integrated aerial systems into its defense strategy. The A-50 early warning aircraft, armed with potent radar systems, is one such example. Indications are that Russia is utilizing the A-50 for precision targeting against adversary positions. 

A report on November 7 from the Russian media outlet Vzglyad claimed that a Ukrainian Su-27 and a MiG-29 were taken down by S-400 interceptors, assisted by A-50s. The A-50 could challenge the Ukrainian F-16s as the aircraft’s radar detection and identification capabilities extend up to 400 km. Essentially, the A-50 can operate solely over Russian airspace and detect an approaching F-16 even when it is nearing Crimea.

Can the F-16 still counter?

Experts from both Russia and the West, including high-ranking Pentagon officials, caution against viewing the F-16 as Ukraine’s magic solution. However, if Ukraine strategically deploys these jets against Russian air defenses, they could prove to be game-changers

32 retired F-16 Fighter Falcons found a new operator in the Balkans
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Primarily, these which could form an initial squadron of twelve are anticipated to be assigned for air defense, specifically to intercept cruise missiles. Even a group considered small by American standards could significantly alleviate the pressure on land-air defense systems. 

Strategically positioned in Ukraine’s rear areas, this operation would protect Ukrainian pilots from engaging with Russian aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles. At the same time, it would give the troop personnel a chance to sharpen their maintenance skills. 

Gradually, the Ukrainian Air Force would move to the front line with the key goal of disabling Russian air defense systems using the AGM-88 HARM. When launched via F-16s, this approach would greatly enhance missile effectiveness and pose immense restoration challenges for any adversary. 

US is taking into service the newest hunter of the Russian S-400s - AGM-88 HARM
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

Even with a limited fleet, this tactic could prove efficient. Additional jets and the accrual of experience would enable Ukrainian F-16 pilots to deter Russia’s UMPK-equipped glide bomb-using aircraft, without fearing potential retaliation and subsequent efficiency drops by reducing range. 

The dent in air defense systems caused by the AGM-88 HARM counterstrike could force the Russian Armed Forces to use multi-purpose fighters for air defense. This would, in turn, reduce the number of strikes on ground units. 

Additionally, the F-16s can employ the JDAM-ER and GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb [SDB] to hit ground targets, besides air defenses. However, the use of cruise missiles remains unclear as the U.S. has yet to disclose any plans for transferring the JASSM.

A dogfight is inevitable

Given these potential conditions, Russia might need to devise methods to safeguard its multi-tiered air defense across the full breadth of the front line. An event that unfolded between Chinese and Taiwanese fighter jets in early August 2022 might possibly point the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) in the right direction. Specifically, it revolves around the battle of wits and tactics between the Su-35 and the F-16.

Interestingly, the event took place between August 2nd and 11th, 2022, which is fairly recent by historical standards. The Chinese reported the incident in their usual succinct manner. Yet, the Indian sources, who are not particularly pro-China, diligently dissected and exposed the complex details.

Iran buys 24 Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E fighters produced for Egypt
Photo credit: UAC

According to official sources, a team of four F-16 Vipers embarked on a standard patrol within Taiwan’s airspace for defense purposes. Taiwan’s authorities have confirmed the absence of any intrusive incident involving a Chinese aircraft in this particular area.

Taiwan’s refusal seems to stem from China’s declaration that a duo of Su-35s had infiltrated this space. This incident indicates an effortless breach by the Su-35s, slipping past the F-16 patrol aircraft seemingly caught by surprise.

One possible explanation for this situation might be the superior electronic countermeasures systems built into the Sukhoi aircraft. Under these circumstances, Taiwanese pilots found themselves with no other option but to exit their designated “air defense control zone”.

Egyptian Su-35 Flanker-E fighters are going to Iran in March
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Let’s dive into the perspective of one of India’s leading experts in aerospace, the ex-Indian Air Force Colonel, Girish Lingana. Here’s a synthesis of his opinions on the subject at hand:

“Taiwan’s F-16V fighter jet, which comes with an active electronically scanned array [AESA] radar, marks a subtle yet significant improvement from the predecessor, the original F-16. However, when pitted against the Su-35 – a formidable Generation 4++ fighter jet, it’s hard not to notice the advanced elements it lacks. Embodying cutting-edge features such as robust thrust vectoring, the Su-35 clearly outclasses the F-16V’s capabilities.

Furthermore, the F-16V unavoidably demonstrates some limitations owing to its original design. These include a prominent radar cross-section making it more noticeable. Even though the addition of the AESA radar broadly improves its functionality, the compact, single-engine configuration of the F-16V restricts the size of the nose cone it can effectively house.

F-16's smaller nose cone allows the Su-35 to blind Viper's radar
Photo by Staff Sgt. Sarah M. McClanahan

Conversely, the Su-35 brandishes the cutting-edge Irbis E radar system. While at first glance, the F-16B and Su-35 may appear to boast similar range capacities, the reality is that the F-16B’s performance is constricted by the inherent constraints of its design. This specific shortcoming drastically diminishes its situational awareness and agility during encounters with the Su-35. Consequently, despite their superiority in numbers, the Taiwanese pilots found themselves compelled to retreat due to a compromised radar system.”


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