Ukrainian digital altered F-16 emerges; Russia boosts missile output

The announcement from the Russian Ministry of Defense [RuMoD] speaks on Kalashnikov Concern’s plan to double the production of Kitolov-2 shells, Strela anti-aircraft missiles, and Vikhr-1 guided missiles. This move is happening in the backdrop of Ukraine’s ongoing negotiations to purchase F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Russia buys 1000 long-range 40N6 anti-aircraft missiles for S-400
Photo credit: Reddit

According to RIA Novosti, the Russian state news agency, the Defense Ministry has flagged the need for anti-aircraft-guided missiles to the company’s executives. The defense minister emphasized the important role of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, promising that they would offer robust protection to all key economic and infrastructure assets. This includes oil, gas, and refining sectors, which will be safeguarded with the help of these missiles.

Strela-10M

The 9M333 Strela anti-aircraft missiles are capable of targeting a diverse range of objects, from drones and cruise missiles to low-flying aircraft and helicopters, even amidst optical jamming. The Strela-10M variety of air defense systems provides efficient protection for ground forces from air assaults and reconnaissance activities at a variety of altitudes. At present, it is one of the most extensively used air defense systems worldwide. 

Batch production of the new guided missile 9M333 for the Strela-10M air defense systems has commenced in Russia. Significantly, these systems have been widely deployed by Russia in the current conflict. 

However, their effectiveness in shooting down hostile drones has raised some eyebrows among military observers. Since the Strela heat-seeking missiles primarily target the hot jet engine exhaust, locking onto smaller drones with minor infrared signatures can pose significant challenges. 

Ukraine to receive Strela-3 MANPADS, 9K33 Osa, and S-300 SAMs
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Military experts suggest that Russian surface-to-air heat-seeking missiles are equipped with impact fuses, making them suitable for larger targets such as aircraft. In this context, the anti-aircraft systems could compete against Ukrainian combat jets, especially considering Kyiv’s impending receipt of F-16 fighter jets from NATO allies.

‘An Ukrainian F-16’

A photograph circulated on social platforms depicts a Lockheed Martin aircraft located at an airfield. The F-16 in the picture appears to be within European borders, perhaps at Fetesti Air Base in Romania. This location functions as a NATO training center for Ukrainian ground and aircrew personnel. 

Indeed, there are Dutch F-16 jets stationed at this base for training purposes. However, the paintwork on the airplane’s body does not correspond with the coloring of the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s combat planes. 

Ukrainian digital altered F-16 emerges; Russia boosts missile output
Photo credit: Twitter

A Ukrainian defense specialist, who asked not to be named, opined that the image seems to be digitally altered. Furthermore, he suggested that Ukrainian hues may have been superimposed on the original red and white markings of Denmark. 

Even though Ukraine has not yet received F-16 fighters, there is a growing expectation that these aircraft might be deployed in the latter part of this year. Certain factors, such as the readiness of Ukraine’s facilities and pilots, will play a role in determining the delivery timeline. This information has been shared by representatives from Denmark and the Netherlands. Training for the pilots is still underway. 

Dutch F-16s could be first

Firstly, a selection of the initial fleet could potentially come from the Netherlands. Mark Rutte, the Dutch Defense Ministry spokesperson, hinted at the possibility of providing additional jets in the future on December 22. However, he also confirmed that his government is swiftly facilitating the preparation of the initial 18 aircraft. 

Moving onto Denmark, which initially promised the delivery of six aircraft by the end of 2023, they have reportedly expedited their schedule by half a year. Their definitive promise is the shipment of as many as 19 aircraft. Conversely, Belgium’s defense minister has pledged their contribution in terms of several aircraft, provisionally set for a 2025 arrival. 

From the homeland, several Ukrainian media outlets have candidly pointed out that their air force expects to have a handful of F-16s ready for action as early as late spring or the beginning of the summer. Even though this is yet to be officially confirmed, the excitement in Kyiv is palpable and accordingly, the Ukrainian air force is taking stringent preparative measures. In contrast, the significance of Russia’s amplified production of its anti-aircraft systems becomes pronounced against this backdrop.

Dutch F-16s will break the sound barrier with control flights
Photo by Ronnie Macdonald

Increasing production of Vikhr-1

It’s noteworthy that the Russians are significantly ramping up the production of Vikhr-1 guided missiles. Notably, these missiles are already seeing widespread use in current conflict zones, and are typically launched from assault helicopters. Picture this: a Ka-52 helicopter kitted out with twelve Vikhr transport and launch containers. Each of these containers holds an Anti-Tank Guided Missile [ATGM]. 

Let’s delve into the specifics of the 9M127-1 Vikhr-1 ATGM. This is a supersonic missile, armed with a hefty 12-kilogram tandem High Explosive Anti-Tank [HEAT] warhead. Thanks to laser guidance, this missile becomes a formidable tank destroyer. Regardless of whether it strikes the frontal armor or hits the side, it can penetrate up to 1200mm of armor. This capability ensures that it can take down any modern tank, regardless of where it makes contact.  

Vikht-1 air-to-air missile - Russia throws Su-30 and Su-35 into battle along with Inokhodets UAV
Photo credit: Russian MoD

But that’s not all. The Vikhr-1 missile also possesses the capability to engage fast-moving aerial targets traveling at speeds of up to 800 kilometers/hour. With a range of 10 kilometers, it handily overshadows the range of Stinger MANPADS, which can only cover half that distance. Also, keep an ear out for news about Russian helicopters. They’re currently honing their skills by launching anti-tank unguided munitions at simulated targets in remote areas.

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