TechUkraine's Push for U.S. F-16s and ATACMS: A Tightrope Walk Over Putin's Threats

Ukraine's Push for U.S. F‑16s and ATACMS: A Tightrope Walk Over Putin's Threats

Firing ATACMS from M270.
Firing ATACMS from M270.
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons
7:53 PM EDT, April 4, 2024

The United States possesses a significant arsenal of weapons capable of enhancing Ukraine's offensive capabilities. Colonel Petro Czernyk, a Ukrainian armed forces officer and military expert, indicates that the West's hesitancy regarding weapons support mainly stems from its apprehension of provoking Putin.

Czernyk suggests that providing Ukraine with 180 F-16 fighters, missiles, bombs, and 1,500 ATACMS missiles would enable it to reclaim the northern Azov region and restore its borders to its pre-invasion status of 2022. He notes that the U.S. has up to 4,000 ATACMS missiles and several hundred active F-16s out of the 4,500 produced.

The foremost obstacle hindering the transfer of sought-after ATACMS missiles and F-16s in larger quantities is Putin's threat of nuclear retaliation. Czernyk expresses concern over discerning when Putin might be bluffing or seriously considering aggressive action. He mentions that for Putin, the nuclear option is a survival mechanism, contributing to the West's cautious stance on weapon transfers to Ukraine.

F-16 and ATACMS for Ukraine

The F-16 fighters represent a critical addition eagerly awaited by Ukraine. Recent reports indicate that Ukraine will receive six F-16s in the upcoming summer, with plans to receive more thereafter. However, details about the official transfer remain unconfirmed. The F-16 stands out not just for its impressive maneuverability, speed of up to 2 Mach, and range of over 2,485 miles but also as a carrier for essential missiles capable of targeting strategic locations in Russia. These include AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles and various bombs such as CBU or JDAM.

The MGM-140 ATACMS missile poses a significant threat to Russia due to its long range of up to 186 miles. Weighing nearly 3,748 lbs and measuring almost 13 ft in length with a diameter of over 2 ft, each missile can carry an explosive charge of 1,235 lbs. A key advantage of the MGM-140 is that it can be launched from existing HIMARS platforms, negating the need for Ukraine to acquire new launching systems.