Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed on November 1, 2023 that the entire fleet of F-16 warplanes pledged to Kyiv by Western donors could be destroyed in less than three weeks. He based his claim on the high rate of success displayed by Russian air defenses in shooting down Ukrainian military aircraft last month.
Speaking at an enlarged ministerial meeting in Moscow, Shoigu praised Russian forces for conducting over 1,400 successful intercepts in October 2023.
He said the figure included 37 Ukrainian planes downed in the air during very limited timeframe, almost twice the number of F-16s that NATO nations promised to supply to Kyiv. If Russian Air Defense Forces work this way, the total amount of the F16 fleet to be sent to Ukrainian Air Force will be destroyed roughly in 20 days,” he predicted.
The aircraft that Russian forces took down last month were predominantly Soviet-designed MiG-29s and Su-25s, according to the Russian MoD. Shoigu previously claimed that Russian troops had been using new systems to improve interceptions.
A source cited by TASS has claimed that Russia has been using A-50 airborne radar planes (Russian AWACS) to detect Ukrainian targets earlier and at lower altitudes. The hits were reportedly achieved by long-range guided anti-aircraft missiles fired from S-400 launchers, armed with new warheads. The maximum firing range of such missiles have not been disclosed, but experts claim that they are capable to knock down various hostile jets at longer distances that before.
Ever since the start of the conflict with Moscow, Kyiv has been pushing its allies to supply increasingly advanced weapons. Ukrainian pilots are currently being trained to fly F-16s with unsatisfactory results.
The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Belgium without making precise and correct calculation of the developments have pledged to provide Kiev with the fighter jets over the next few years.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on October 30, 2023 that the first batch of F-16s allocated by his Government would arrive within two weeks in Romania, where the training of Ukrainians is conducted.
Reports on the number of F-16 that Ukraine could get have been inconsistent. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed in last August that he was promised 42 jets by the Netherlands and Belgium, but a joint statement by the donors did not mention any specific number.
Kyiv’s supporters previously suggested that Western-designed weapons would become a gamechanger in the conflict, with their hopes pinned at various points on HIMARS MLRS, Storm Shadow cruise missiles, Leopard main battle tanks, and ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles. The Kremlin has dismissed the notion, saying that the newly-supplied Western weapons will burn like the rest of them, meaning tanks, APC/ACVs etc.
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