A new plane getting to Ukraine will boost its F-16s and eat into Russia’s advantage in the skies, experts say


  • Sweden has promised Ukraine its first-ever air control and surveillance aircraft.

  • Experts told BI that the planes will increase the effectiveness of Ukraine’s promised F-16s.

  • The control aircraft can scan broadly to locate targets and threats.

The arrival of a new type of aircraft for Ukraine will give the country an advantage it has not had before and help increase the effectiveness of the promised F-16s, experts told Business Insider.

Sweden announced late last month that it is providing Ukraine with two ASC 890 air control and surveillance aircraft, which act as airborne command centers.

They detect enemy aircraft, missiles and drones from afar and coordinate responses to attacks.

The Swedish aircraft will be the first with this feature that Ukraine has had, giving it a capability that only Russia has so far much larger and more modern air forceenjoyed.

A boost for Ukraine

Tim Robinson, a military aviation specialist at Britain’s Royal Aeronautical Society, told BI that the Swedish aircraft, paired with the F-16s, “will be a game changer in terms of the situational awareness, the live radar picture.”

He said the planes “would sooner warn Ukrainians where drone and missile attacks are coming from. That will be a huge advantage.”

Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson said the aircraft will “complement and enhance the F-16 systems.”

An F-16 during takeoffAn F-16 during takeoff

An F-16 taking off.U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jose Miguel T. Tamondong

Mark Cancian, a retired Marine Corps colonel and defense strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told BI that the aircraft could be very valuable because they can “see much further and then help aircraft determine the direction of the biggest threats.”

Meanwhile, Peter Layton, a fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and a former Royal Australian Air Force officer, said they will be able to fly Ukraine’s fighter jets so that “coordination, command and control will be dramatically improved .”

They remain very vulnerable

During the war, Russia used its own A-50 Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft to monitor Ukrainian airspace and coordinate attacks.

But Ukraine destroyed one A-50 in Januaryand said it shot another the following month. A Ukrainian defense official said in April that Russia had only six A-50s left.

These losses show how vulnerable aircraft like these are, and how expensive they are.

A Russian Beriev A-50A Russian Beriev A-50

A Russian Beriev A-50.AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File

Planes like these “are very vulnerable to fighter jets and missile attacks,” Layton said, adding that in war “everyone wants to kill the early warning aircraft.”

Cancian said Russia would be “very interested” in its destruction.

He also warned that the planes are “extremely complex,” more than what Ukraine is used to.

Ukraine will likely hold the plane together

Layton said he expects the command planes to withdraw so their radars can detect incoming drones and cruise missiles, allowing F-16s to “target very accurately.”

The experts said restraint is also likely the best approach for Ukraine’s first F-16s, so the planes can protect cities and infrastructure while staying away from most Russian weapons.

Ukraine, at least initially, won’t have enough to justify very progressive use of it, they said.

A Ukrainian official said last month that the first F-16s are expected in June or July, in line with Denmark’s comments said the first jets are expected this summer.

Ukraine has been promised about 85 aircraft by Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium. However, it is not clear how many will arrive in the first wave.

Experts say the F-16s will be useful to Ukraine but are unlikely to significantly change the war on their own, especially since only a small number have been deployed so far.

But they will make up for aircraft losses, shoot down Russian drones and missiles and perhaps launch some attacks on Russian-occupied territory, the experts said.

“Every time they arrive, it’s a good moment for Ukraine,” Cancian said.

Read the original article Business insider

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