‘Today, my F-16 cannot fight the S-400’ – a real US ‘killer scout’

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One of the top fighters in the US Air Force’s recent past doesn’t give the F-16 Fighting Falcon a chance against the S-400. Already a military analyst and veteran pilot, John “JV” Venable says in front of Business Insider that Ukraine has a serious problem and that is Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. To the chagrin of official Kyiv, Venable sees a failure of F-16 fighters against Russian air defenses.

Photo credit: PixaBay

John “JV” Venable is not just another analyst. Venable is no casual pilot. Behind him, the American has real combat experience in the air. With his “bird,” Venable has served in as many as 16 locations around the world. In addition to the US, the JV has flown in Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East. For his entire military experience, he has passed through all units in his career as a combat aviator – air controller, fighter pilot, staff officer, and commander. JV is known as an expert in developing air attack tactics. It is because of this quality that he was nominated for the Claire Chennault – ‘Killer Scout’ award.

Today, Venable is sought after for expert assessment of various combat situations, conflicts, and possible tactics for success. He talked about the possibility of Ukraine acquiring F-16 fighter jets. A possibility that still exists, despite the “brakes” that Washington imposes on such a transfer.

Venable is also of the opinion that the F-16 will put a lot of strain on Ukraine’s air force and will not lead to success. He recalls a well-known fact – the F-16 is not a stealth fighter. This aircraft does not have the characteristics of the F-22 or F-35, and this will be a problem if it goes up against Russia’s air defenses built along the entire length of the front line.

Photo credit: DefBrief

At the moment, the sky over Ukraine is a threat due to two active factors – the superiority of Russian combat aviation and S-400 systems. The expert says the S-400 can outmaneuver the F-16 long before the aircraft heads into the system. The author refers to the need for the F-16 to get close to the air defense system of the Russian army to launch a missile or smart bomb.

No more MiG-29s or F-16s will benefit Ukraine, says Venable. He believes that even the more modern variants and upgrades of the American flagship in recent decades will not be able to overcome the Russian ground-based flagship S-400.

“Giving more MiG-29s to Ukraine will not help on the battlefield. And even if we give them modern F-16s — I would say more modern F-16s — it’s not going to change or affect the battlefield a year from now, much less in time for a spring offensive,” he says.

Of course, the F-16 would overcome some of the older Soviet air defense systems, which by the way are also on the battlefield right now. For example, the 2K12 Kub mobile surface-to-air missile system or the BUK self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile system. The first system is from the Cold War era, developed sometime in the late 1960s. The second one is more recent than the first one, being from the early 1980s.

But both systems are defeatable, says the US air ace, stressing that he has at least faced them a few times. Moreover, he managed to “defeat” them by jamming them with the electronic warfare units of his F-16. The American says that if only these two air defense systems are at the front, Ukraine can have some success. Because, Venable says, one way or another, at some point, the F-16 will have an opportunity to strike if it confronts them.

Photo by US Air Force/Senior Airman Erica Webster

The ‘Killer Scout’ points out, however, that technology has advanced since the 1980s and 1990s. The S-400 is already in another category. “Then we had a chance to fight, today we don’t have that chance,” philosophically concludes the former American pilot.

John “JV” Venable’s opinion is yet another denying any success of the F-16 in Ukraine. But, on the “other side of the coin,” there are opinions that claim the opposite. More and more often in the US Congress, the opinion that Ukraine should receive the F-16 from the US, or at least the US to allow the re-export of this fighter, is starting to prevail.

But is political opinion more important than military opinion to the success of Ukraine’s upcoming offensive? BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that none other than General James Hecker, commander of the US Air Force in Europe, strongly doubts that the F-16 will bring any benefits to Ukraine. However, the American general does not deny the capabilities of the F-16 but recognizes the progress in the development of air defense over the years by Russia. An opinion that completely coincides with that expressed by John “JV” Venable.

However, Ukraine continues to insist on receiving the American F-16 fighter jets. With such professional military opinions that this aircraft would not be suitable for the war at the moment, we have to ask why Kyiv is interested in the F-16.

Ukraine’s increasingly slow offensive and the increasingly demanding opinion that Kyiv should get F-16s lead to different conclusions. One of them we in our editorial office have repeatedly stated – is it possible that Kyiv is trying to renew its combat aviation “for free” using the war against Russia? Yes, there is a war, Ukraine needs fighters, but with many professionals saying that the F-16 will not help, what else are we left to think?

Photo credit: MWM

Maybe the problem is something else, and it’s not what we claim. Perhaps the USA, as a “cash cow” in the last 14 months, is the most suitable country to request arms.

However, the fact is that the professional opinion prevails that not the F-16, but another fighter would be most suitable for Ukraine. But Stockholm is not Washington, Sweden’s weapons capabilities are not like those of the US. It’s one thing to ask for weapons from a country whose leader keeps saying at every briefing on the topic of Ukraine “We will continue to arm Ukraine”, and it’s quite another to ask for weapons from a country [Sweden] that doesn’t see the situation the way the US does.

Going back to John “JV” Venable’s remarks in them we rediscover the logic of the editorial team. Venable says Washington should train the Ukrainians on the Western calibration of the F-16. I.e. Ukraine needs to understand the logistics of the F-16, the supply chain, the structure of the fighter’s hydraulic system, and what tactics this fighter is designed for.

The American emphasizes again: “The ultimate goal of this would not be for them to use the F-16 in combat. It would be for them to be rotated to a Western standard.” Well yes, to us it sounds more like preparation for a new Ukrainian Air Force to be developed after the war.

As for the S-400 system, despite the many features shared by Russian sources, and the still unknown of its capabilities, there are two nuances to consider.

First – the S-400 has already been tested against American F-16 fighters, and that of a foreign Air Force [Greece]. This is what Turkey did about three years ago, after acquiring the Russian S-400 air defense system and integrating it into the country’s air defense. The tests were successful and according to publications in the Turkish media – the system performed brilliantly.

Second – it is claimed that in the first days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine from Belarus, an S-400 system shot down a Ukrainian Su-27 over Kyiv at a distance of 150 km. And according to the latest data coming from the Russian press, the S-300V4, which is the last version before the arrival of the S-400, shot down a Ukrainian Su-27 at a distance of 217 km.

In such a situation, Venable is right – the F-16 will not be able to get close to Russia’s air defense systems to launch its anti-radiation or air-to-surface missiles. He will be caught long ago and will have to think of tactics to avoid possible defeat.


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