Kyiv auction: what planes Ukraine can get from NATO

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NATO states are discussing deliveries to Ukraine of relatively modern combat aircraft. There is no final decision on their transfer yet – there is an intensive processing of both decision-makers and country leaders. On February 10, it became known that the Netherlands had already received a request from Kyiv for the supply of F-16s. These machines can be delivered from the presence of the air fleet of the Netherlands Air Force. It is also possible that Ukrainian pilots may receive combat vehicles from France. Izvestia compiled a shortlist of possible candidate fighters and tried to figure out whether they can be considered truly modern models of military equipment and what their chances are in air combat with modern Russian aircraft.

Limited choice

Stocks of Soviet aircraft in NATO are practically exhausted. Therefore, the Ukrainian command does not hide its hopes to receive up to 200 Western-made aircraft for its Air Force. But this is not easy to achieve. The United States so far firmly refuses to supply aircraft to Kyiv. And some European countries simply do not have such a number of fighters and bombers to satisfy the needs of Ukraine. Today, the air fleet of most of them has, at best, several dozen expensive combat vehicles.

Fighter F-16

Photo: REUTERS/US Air Force/Senior Airman Ali Stewart

Leading NATO countries are now in the process of transitioning to a new fifth generation stealth fighter F-35. Of course, no one will provide Kyiv with this novelty, the cost of which is almost $100 million per unit, just like the modern French Dassault Rafale. And the choice of simpler cars of the previous generation on the European continent is not so great.

From the transfer to Kyiv of small-scale and exotic combat vehicles, like the Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighters, there may be more problems than good. There are simply not enough of them. Therefore, it will not be easy to train pilots and then maintain these aircraft in combat operation.

There are not so many real candidates for Ukrainian fighters in Europe. They should be widely distributed, tested in battles and easy to use. Three options fall into this category: the widespread and versatile American F-16, the British Typhoon, tested in the conflicts of this century, and the ambitious French Mirage.

Typhoon from UK

Candidate No. 1 for deliveries to the aviation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is the British multi-role fighter of the 4 ++ generation Eurofighter Typhoon. The aircraft was developed by a European consortium with the same name Eurofighter as a response to the appearance in the USSR of 4th generation combat vehicles MiG-29 and Su-27. In 1994, he made his first flight and began to enter service with the air forces of Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria. Later, aircraft of this type went to Saudi Arabia. To date, contracts have been signed for the supply of the Eurofighter Typhoon to several more countries in the Persian Gulf.

The aircraft has increased maneuverability due to the use of a perfect fly-by-wire control system, the so-called unstable aerodynamics and the canard aerodynamic configuration. As well as on Russian Su-30SM and Su-35 fighters, this makes it possible to perform relatively complex aerobatics in all flight modes.

Fighter Eurofighter Typhoon

Photo: Global Look Press/Christophe Gateau

The British fighter is equipped with two engines and has a high thrust-to-weight ratio, but with close characteristics in terms of the level of super-maneuverability, the aircraft is still inferior to the Russian Su-35, which at the moment has no equal in terms of aerobatics.

The Eurofighter Typhoon has reduced radar signature. Moreover, both due to the corresponding radio-absorbing materials in the structure, and due to the placement of air combat missiles semi-recessed into the fuselage. Although, it should be noted that, unlike fifth-generation aircraft, it does not have an internal weapons compartment. Conventional classic suspension units allow you to carry a variety of weapons, but also unmask them for enemy radars. It has a payload of 7.5 tons, which is 500 kg less than the Su-30SM and Su-35, but more than the maximum load of the lighter Russian MiG-29.

In principle, as an opponent in aerial combat or during strike missions, the Eurofighter Typhoon could turn out to be quite a worthy rival to Russian aircraft, but it is unlikely that it will be able to prevail – with more modest characteristics, it is quite difficult to master and very demanding on the level of training of pilots. Even if in the near future a decision is made to transfer these fighters to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, it will take a lot of time for Ukrainian pilots to master them.

One of the reasons why the Eurofighter Typhoon was named candidate No. 1 is that the RAF, one way or another, intended to part with more than a hundred of these aircraft in the coming years, replacing them with 5th generation F-35 fighters.

American “Falcon”

The second and probably more practical candidate for the transfer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be the American F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role light fighter. This most massive 4th generation combat vehicle was created in 1974 before the advent of the Soviet MiG-29 and Su-27. In fact, he was the American answer to the massive light single-engine fighter MiG-23.

The F-16 outlived its main competitor and even managed to make war with the formally more advanced MiG-29s in several local conflicts. This is a very successful car, it is still produced for export. Of course, the modern versions of these aircraft cannot be compared with the fighters of the 1970-1980s – they are more advanced in terms of equipment, design and weapon systems.

A new engine was installed on aircraft manufactured in the late 1980s, radar-absorbing materials were used for the first time, and the AIM-120 AMRAAM universal medium and long-range missile was added to the armament kit. It was believed that this machine would be able to withstand fighters such as the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the air. Moreover, at long ranges, his chances were quite high due to AMRAAM missiles, but in the “dog dump” – close maneuverable combat – he could not compete with Soviet aircraft.

Fighter F-16 Block 50

Photo: Public Domain

An even more advanced model of the F-16 Block 50 has been produced since the early 1990s to the present: an upgraded engine, a new radar, updated strike weapons. Today it is one of the most massive modifications. These aircraft are in service in European countries and, like the Eurofighter Typhoon, in some states they are already being replaced by more advanced fifth-generation F-35 aircraft.

Despite the formal lag behind all modern Russian fighters, the F-16 is a very dangerous combat vehicle in terms of its characteristics. It can be equally successfully used both as a fighter and as an attack aircraft with the ability to hit targets at a distance of up to 1500 km (without refueling, but with external fuel tanks). The Sokol is easy to pilot and can be mastered by pilots of average skill. It has been successfully operated by dozens of Air Forces of different countries for many years – this is a real combat “workhorse”.

Among the main users are Israel, Taiwan, Egypt, Pakistan, South Korea, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the US itself. First of all, Polish, Dutch or Belgian F-16s can get to Ukraine. However, our MiG-31 and Su-35 will cope with long-range R-37M missiles.

Mirage from France

France has a rather large fleet of locally designed Mirage-2000 aircraft, which are gradually being phased out of service. Light as the F-16, the delta-wing fighter is aerodynamically close to the Eurofighter Typhoon. It was adopted in 1984 and produced until the mid-2000s.

Mirage-2000 fighters

Photo: Global Look Press/Ssgt. Corey Hook

The fighter, like the F-16, is multi-purpose and can equally successfully work on ground targets or carry out missions related to the protection of airspace from aircraft or cruise missiles. In one of them, in 1996, a Greek Mirage-2000 shot down a Turkish F-16 Fighting Falcon over the sea in a dogfight. Mirage carries a maximum of about 6 tons of payload and its standard missile and bomb armament can only be French-designed missiles. In air combat with our Su-35s, the Mirage has little chance.

Of course, it cannot be ruled out that not one model, but several of the listed ones will appear in the arsenal of Ukraine. But this will become a serious problem for the rear and airfield services – different types of ammunition, maintenance regulations, different piloting schools. A unified fleet would give better efficiency. But now Ukraine wants to get any aircraft that can be quickly released in Europe, and as soon as possible.

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