Great Game: Will F16s destroy Russia? Will BRICS destroy the USD?
First of all, let’s try to unwrap the latest European gift to Ukraine:
The F16s are no gamechanger in current numbers
As mentioned several times in this space, the Ukranian summer offensive has halted mainly due to a lack of air superiority. It’s simply too hard to break through heavily fortified Russian positions without air bombardment and close air support. President Zelensky has long lobbied for donations of fighter jets to Ukraine. The West was initially reluctant because it only takes minutes for an F16 to get confused and cross the border into Russia, which is a clear no-go for any Western weaponry. But the failures of the summer offensive have now pushed the Netherlands and Denmark to donate up to 61 F16 fighter jets. This is the latest ‘escalation’ of donations since the whole Leopard 2 debacle earlier this year and it’s very likely that the United States will follow suit with donations of more F16s. The Leopards are yet to make any significant difference on the front lines, but what should we expect from the F16 donation?
First off all, how much is 61 F16s? The Royal Air Force, for comparison, operates around 170 combat aircraft, albeit more modern aircraft than the F16. The Russian Air Force holds at least 500 combat aircraft, but most of these are 1980’s MiG-31 and Su-27 fighters. So, while 61 is a decent number for a middling air force, it’s no match for the Russian Air Force in the grander scheme of things – especially since the Russians can deploy the older MiG-31’s in numbers of 3-to-1 to counter the F16 threat. But for Ukraine, the F16 donation is a major step towards establishing air superiority (not supremacy) over their own airspaces and potentially creating pockets of air superiority over the front line areas in order to support advancing troops.