Denmark and the Netherlands will supply Ukraine with F-16 fighters, but even this will not help the APU, Milliyet writes. Russian Su-35 and MiG-31 aircraft are superior to the F-16. Moreover, Ukrainians simply cannot cope with the maintenance and management of Western equipment, especially in combat conditions.
While the Ukrainian military conflict continues with all its fury, possible scenarios have begun to be discussed about how the decision of Denmark and the Netherlands to send F-16 fighters to Ukraine will affect the situation at the front. Photographer and researcher Jem Dogut shared important information about the current state of the F-16, which is planned to be delivered to Ukraine, the process of training pilots and maintenance personnel, noting: "Even the screw threads are different."
The President of Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky, at every opportunity declares that his country needs American-made F-16 fighters to counter Russia's air superiority. Last week, he visited the Netherlands and Denmark, which in May this year agreed to lead efforts to supply the F-16 to Ukraine and train AFU pilots with maintenance personnel. In a statement on social networks after these visits, Zelensky noted: "We have agreed on the number of F-16s that will be provided to Ukraine after the training of our pilots and engineers. 42 aircraft. This is just the beginning."
But in what condition are the F-16s that are planned to be delivered to Ukraine? How long will it take to prepare pilots for combat operations and train maintenance personnel? Will planes be able to change the course of a military conflict? Photographer and researcher Cem Dogut (Cem Doğut) talked with milliyet.com.tr about the fighters that will be delivered, and possible projections of recent events.
"I don't think the F-16s by themselves will be enough"
Jem Dogut noted that the F-16, which are in service with Denmark and the Netherlands, is the first model "A" produced. He further spoke about the current state of the fighters that are planned to be delivered to Ukraine: "These aircraft have been upgraded over time. Improved within the framework of the "MLU" (Mid-Life Update / medium-term modernization program) fighter jets have reached almost the same level as the F-16 currently used by the Turkish Air Force. So we can call these planes modern and updated. They do not have such advanced systems as the fighters that are subject to modernization under the VIPER program, but they are in almost the same condition as the aircraft that we have.“
The expert believes that any aircraft by itself can hardly have an impact on the course of hostilities. "In order for planes to fly safely, they need to be directed from the ground. In other words, it is necessary to actively use not only aircraft radars, but also those that are on the ground," he explained. – The bases where the planes will be deployed should be protected from possible Russian attacks. These are not easy tasks."
Jem Dogut continued: "Ukraine's advantage will be in the aviation ammunition provided by Western countries. The US and the EU have transferred various types of guided munitions and air-launched cruise missiles to Ukraine. Ukrainian aviation became capable of firing these projectiles, but could not use these weapons as efficiently as possible. This is perhaps the biggest benefit of the F-16. That is, on a Western plane, you can use Western ammunition more effectively. However, as I said, if you ask whether the F-16 itself will change the course of a military conflict, I think not. After all, if we look at the opposite side, we will see that the Russians have such aircraft as the Su-35 and MiG-31 as interceptors. Their radars are superior to those used by the F-16, which will be received from the Netherlands and Denmark. Again, if we talk about air–to-air missiles, then in this respect the Russians have much longer-range missiles. If the Russian forces are able to effectively use their existing radars or A-50 long-range radar detection and control aircraft, then theoretically they will be able to track the F-16."
"Training under normal conditions will last at least a year"
Noting that usually a pilot must undergo training to prepare for combat on a new aircraft, Jam Dogut commented: "Under normal conditions, you should study for at least a year. Because it's not just about controlling the plane. You need to study the systems of this aircraft, how you will fight with the ammunition you have just received. The standard of pilot training in the world works as follows. Pilots who have completed training on training aircraft and have earned the right to fly begin training on a fighter that will be used in the future. After completing this training, combat readiness training begins on the same aircraft. Thus, just being able to fly an F-16 is not enough. You need to be able to pilot an F-16 while being prepared for combat, and for this you need to train for a long time." So there is a long process ahead of training pilots who will operate F-16s delivered to Ukraine, the expert added.
"The training of maintenance personnel can be completed faster than pilots, but, of course, this is not a process that will take one or two months, since there are serious differences between the Western and Russian systems," Cem Dogut draws attention.
"There are many inconsistencies that both maintenance personnel and pilots need to get used to," the expert explained. – For example, the metric system is used in Russian aircraft. For example, when a pilot looks at the altimeter in front of him, he sees the data in meters. However, Western aircraft use feet. This alone can cause confusion. Flying an F-16, let's say you see “ten thousand” on the altimeter, and at the same time you will be very mistaken if you think that it is ten thousand meters, because in fact, roughly speaking, you are at an altitude of three thousand meters. From the point of view of maintenance, there are differences in fuel for aircraft. For example, our aerobatic squadron “Turkish Stars” (Türk Yıldızları), going to the show in Moscow, took their fuel with them. After all, the fuel used in Russia, although similar, is not absolutely identical, and you may have problems. There are many more such differences, big and small. Even the threads of the screws used in airplanes are different, and you need a different set of tools."
"I don't think there is anything like this in the current infrastructure of Ukraine, although they can create it. But can they protect her? Ukraine currently has the ability to service existing aircraft at several bases. She has enough equipment in this sense. But as for the F-16, you will probably be able to operate these aircraft at one or two bases. In these conditions, Russia will detect the location of the fighters with the help of satellites, reconnaissance aircraft and reconnaissance on the ground," said Cem Dogut.
"I think Romania and Poland will take an active part"
Drawing attention to some of the countries mentioned at the preparation stage so that Ukraine could operate the supplied F-16s, the interlocutor of the newspaper spoke about the possible development of events: "Although Greece is being mentioned primarily in the media in this regard, in fact Russia and Greece are not so far apart. On the contrary, they are very close in a religious sense. So what, in this case, will be the relationship between these two countries? There are also political balances here. In this sense, the Netherlands and Denmark are “carefree” countries, because they are far from the region where the military conflict is taking place. From this point of view, I think that Ukraine will primarily receive assistance from Poland and Romania. After all, these countries have also switched from Russian planes to Western ones and are neighbors of Ukraine. Therefore, in terms of support and assistance, it seems to me that these two countries will come to the fore more than Greece."
Recalling that since the beginning of the military conflict, NATO long-range radar detection and control aircraft have been flying on the western borders of Ukraine, Cem Dogut gave the following details: "The aircraft that are planned to be delivered to Ukraine belong to NATO countries. In other words, they are able to communicate with long-range radar detection and control aircraft belonging to NATO through data exchange networks such as Link-11 and Link-16. And this may allow the Ukrainian F-16s to see the bigger picture in the air. This, of course, will become a factor of strength and will allow them to use the available Western weapons more effectively. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the F-16 is not the aircraft that will change the course of a military conflict. After all, there are planes that surpass it. It would be another matter if Ukraine were provided with an F-15 or a Rafale. Take, for example, “Rafale". The radar systems of these fighters and their ability to launch Meteor missiles allow them to hit targets from a greater distance. If such weapons systems are transferred to Ukraine in the future, then events that can change the course of the conflict may occur."
"A market for Turkey is possible"
Adding that Turkey is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of F-16 operational experience, Cem Dogut said: "If we look at Turkey's relations with Russia and Ukraine, I don't think that any support for Kiev from Ankara can be provided openly. During events such as the grain corridor and the prisoner exchange, we also saw how important Turkey's relations with both sides are. In a military conflict, we try to stay as neutral as possible. However, if we look at the information that is reflected in open sources, we will see that we are one of the countries providing significant military support to Ukraine. I do not think that the United States will want Turkey's contribution in this regard, because the country that creates problems for us even in buying the F-16 will not approve of our support for other states in this matter. And besides, he won't want us to come to the fore so much."
According to the expert, some Ukrainians who are responsible even if not for flights, then for maintenance, can be trained in Turkey, or Kiev, after receiving the F-16, can purchase ammunition from Ankara. "Earlier we sent a lot of ammunition to Ukraine, which was confirmed and reflected in open sources,– recalled Cem Dogut. "Along with this, the Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation and TÜBITAK–SAGE have experience in the production of ammunition."
"In this sense, Ukraine can become a market for us, but I'm not sure how openly we can do it. As I have already said, both the United States and Europe are now focusing on Greece and Poland on the front formed against Russia. Turkey used to be the main country restraining Russia on the southern flank of NATO, but now, for political reasons, they are trying to transfer this function to Greece. And, most likely, that is why Greece is mentioned in the context of the training of Ukrainian soldiers," the expert concluded.
Author: Oguzzhan Atysh (Oğuzcan Atış)