TechUkraine's game-changer: F-16 jets with AIM-120 missiles poised to outmaneuver Russian aviation

Ukraine's game-changer: F‑16 jets with AIM‑120 missiles poised to outmaneuver Russian aviation

F-16 during exercises
F-16 during exercises
Images source: © Getty Images | Ezra Acayan
2:18 PM EST, January 25, 2024

Medium-range air-to-air weapons, the AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles can attack targets at a distance from approximately 62 miles to even 111 miles, depending on the model. Kowalenko believes these missiles will be helpful aboard F-16 fighters, potentially taking advantage of critical areas like portions of the Kherson Oblast or Crimea. Precisely, in these regions, Ukrainian forces could maneuver Russian aviation into unsupported areas, much like potential battle scenarios in the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts.

Ukrainians harbour high hopes for F-16s

"The most appealing options for us are the AIM-120 C-5/C-6/C-7 and AIM-120D with 65, 75, and 111 miles ranges. In practical terms, using these missiles on our F-16s allows us to strike Russian aircraft across the entire left-bank Kherson Oblast and even over the northern part of the temporarily occupied Crimean Peninsula. Each Russian combat plane would be shot down before entering these zones to launch their missiles or drop KAB", Kowalenko explains.

In previous discussions, other experts and military personnel have concurred that the greatest asset of the F-16 is its capacity to hold a diverse range of weapons. The fighter jets can also utilize AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, AGM-88 Harm, AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84D Harpoon and Penguin anti-ship missiles, and even CBU-87, CBU-89, GBU-10, GBU-12, Paveway, or JDAM bombs.

Significant role of AWACS aircraft

Simultaneously, Kowalenko points out the crucial role of AWACS (early warning) aircraft, which he refers to as the 'eyes of modern aviation'. These planes are indispensable to either side of the ongoing conflict, and their safety must be secured.

However, this is no small task. The Russians utilize A-50 (Mainstay in NATO code) aircraft. In January of this year, they lost one of these planes, suspected to be due to Ukrainian intervention. This loss deeply impacted Putin's army, which only has a few similar models. One of these was rapidly deployed to the front line, but according to British intelligence, its operations are restricted to Russian airspace.

Ukrainians lobbying for fighter jets

F-16 fighters are projected to start landing in Ukraine in the second quarter of this year. Allies have hitherto vowed the delivery of dozens of jets. Kyiv is lobbying for up to 100 Western fighter jets, which could guarantee air superiority over the Russians. Efforts to acquire Swedish JAS 39 Gripen, French Mirage-2000D, and potentially even Australian F/A-18 Hornet are ongoing. However, the technical condition of the latter presents a noticeable uncertainty (these are models that Australia is retiring from service).

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