Apparently, when speaking about gaining air superiority, the Ukrainian commander meant that with such forces, air superiority can theoretically be won only in the zone of the main strike, and then only for a while. Even such quite competitive aircraft as the F-16 cannot be counted on for more with the help of 3-4 squadrons.
But in addition to gaining air superiority (that is, destroying enemy aircraft at airfields, in the air, base areas, etc.), the Ukrainian Air Force must solve the tasks of covering troops and facilities, ensure the actions of other branches of aviation forces, carry out air support for troops and air reconnaissance. That is, 3-4 squadrons are frankly not enough to solve such a set of tasks, and, it must be said frankly, the Ukrainian brigadier general was clearly modest when naming the number of fighters required by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Later, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that Kyiv needed about 120 aircraft, most of which should be American F-16s.
However, with all this, the following should be taken into account. As Gazeta previously wrote, the United States will most likely transfer to the Ukrainian Air Force not only the combat vehicles themselves, but will definitely support their actions with a number of other aircraft. Otherwise, a relatively small number of F-16s will be hit by aviation and anti-aircraft missile forces of the RF Armed Forces, as a result, American weapons will be discredited, and combat missions will not be completed.
Proceeding from this and for the purpose of effective combat use, tactical aviation units and formations usually create several echelons and groups. As a rule, they include a strike echelon and an air defense fire suppression echelon, a group of active jammers, a distraction (demonstrative) group, a cover group from fighter aircraft, early warning and control aircraft, combat control and target designation aircraft. There is no doubt that it is precisely from these considerations that the Americans will proceed when transferring fighters to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Among other things, anti-radar missiles, false targets, unmanned aerial vehicles will be used in large quantities in the upcoming hostilities. From the ground, aviation operations will be necessarily supported by subunits and units of electronic warfare, fire from operational-tactical missile systems.
There is no doubt that every air and missile strike of the Ukrainian Air Force will be comprehensively prepared. To this end, reconnaissance of strike targets will be actively conducted, the surrounding terrain, hidden approaches to targets will be studied, and the air defense system will be especially carefully opened. Pilots will preliminarily master flight routes and methods of action on targets, up to the use of terrain models.
The tactics of aviation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will most likely be distinguished by great flexibility and the absence of even a hint of a pattern (the American mentors, admittedly, are great masters in this). Even in cases where success will be achieved at the cost of even minor losses, the methods and methods of combat use of the Ukrainian Air Force will immediately undergo the necessary changes.
So the fight against an air enemy for the air defense of the RF Armed Forces will by no means be an easy task.
In the Russian expert community, it is widely believed that the transfer of a small number of F-16 multifunctional fighters to the Armed Forces of Ukraine will not lead to fundamental changes on the line of contact.
We can agree with this. Indeed, 48 F-16 fighters may not lead to a turning point on the fronts of the Special Military Operation. But, for example, 148 combat vehicles will already significantly affect the course and outcome of the armed struggle. And 248 F-16s will definitely lead to dramatic changes.
And the trends in terms of the transfer of Western aircraft to the Armed Forces of Ukraine look exactly like this. “Ukraine will need a full range of military capabilities in the near future. And so it’s time to start thinking long-term about what this country’s military might look like and what it might include,” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said recently.
Therefore, in long-term planning, we need to proceed from this.
Mikhail Mikhailovich Khodarenok – military observer for Gazeta, retired colonel.
Graduated from the Minsk Higher Engineering Anti-Aircraft Missile School (1976), the Military Air Defense Command Academy (1986). Commander of the S-75 anti-aircraft missile battalion (1980–1983). Deputy commander of an anti-aircraft missile regiment (1986–1988). Senior officer of the Main Staff of the Air Defense Forces (1988–1992). Officer of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff (1992–2000). Graduate of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (1998). Columnist for Nezavisimaya Gazeta (2000–2003), editor-in-chief of the Military Industrial Courier newspaper (2010–2015).