The Armed Forces of Ukraine Found Ways to Improve Airfields For the F-16: What Could Be the Problem

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The F-16 in Myrhorod, 2011 / Open source photo
The F-16 in Myrhorod, 2011 / Open source photo

As an alternative to the F-16, the JAS 39 Gripen was considered due to problems with the airfield infrastructure, what is wrong with Ukrainian airstrips

The Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov, on the air of the national telethon announced that the problem with the airfield infrastructure of the Air Force of Ukraine, which is a certain obstacle in obtaining Western fighters, can be solved.

During the national telethon, he answered questions about the training of Ukrainian pilots, saying that funding for training on Western jets is included in the draft US budget, but so far it has only passed approval in Congress, and then it awaits approval by the Senate and the signature of the US President.

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The Armed Forces of Ukraine Found Ways to Improve Airfields For the F-16: What Could Be the Problem, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The F-16 / Illustrative photo from open sources

"The question is what kind of planes it is going to be. Everyone dreams of F-16s, I would also dream of them, but something has to be done with the airfields. We held consultations with specialists, they said that some equipment needs adding at the airfields. After that I think we will be able to receive aircraft of this class as well," Oleksiy Reznikov noted.

Before that, due to the problem with the airfield infrastructure, the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen by Saab was considered as an alternative to American aircraft. The main unofficially announced reason was considered to be the requirement for the quality of runways. The Swedish jet is designed for operation from bad lanes.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine Found Ways to Improve Airfields For the F-16: What Could Be the Problem, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
THe JAS 39 Gripen of the Czech Air Force / Illustrative photo from open sources

The airfields of the Air Force of Ukraine are covered with concrete slabs. It dramatically differs from the covering on NATO airfields, which have either larger slabs or, usually, a solid covering at all.

The answer to the question whether F-16 or F-15 can take off from Ukraine’s airfields is quite simple and proved in practice during joint exercises with the US Air Force, which took place in Myrhorod and Starokostyantyniv. But we should note that before the US visit the runway was closed for a rather long repairing process.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine Found Ways to Improve Airfields For the F-16: What Could Be the Problem, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The F-15C, which is a rather demanding jet for the runway, in Starokostyantyniv, 2018 / Open source photo

At the same time, possibility does not mean desirability. For example, the coverage at the Swedish airbases, where the Gripen are based, is in no way characterized by the phrase "low quality runway".

And in general, you can see the following, comparing the quality and types of runways for different aircraft in similar climatic conditions.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine Found Ways to Improve Airfields For the F-16: What Could Be the Problem, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
Poland F-16, Ukraine MiG-29, Sweden Gripen, Finland F/A-18

These are runways from air bases in Poland, Ukraine, Sweden and Finland where the F-16, MiG-29, Gripen and F/A-18 are based. And indeed, something needs to be done about the quality of coverage of airfields in Ukraine. At the same time, Sweden can definitely not worry about the quality of their runways, despite the fact that the Gripen has relatively mild requirements.

Defense Express reminds that some NATO countries locate military aircraft at civilian airports.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine Found Ways to Improve Airfields For the F-16: What Could Be the Problem, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The F-16 is one of the candidates for strengthening the Ukrainian Air Force / Open source photo

Moreover, the use of highways does not indicate the aircraft's requirements for coverage (it rather indicates the requirement for highways). And F-16 or F-15 in particular can also use highways for taking off and landing. Of course, not constantly and in everyday use.

It should also be noted that special areas with reinforced coverage are provided for this purpose. Such approach is visible on some highways in Ukraine as well.

But the airport infrastructure includes not only the runway itself. The Swedish Gripen has another difference, it is reported that it uses fuel for commercial passenger airliners and civil aviation Jet A1, and not the standard NATO fighter fuel JP-8, or the old standard JP-4.

The latter was even the reason for the suspension of Gripen's participation in flights over Libya in 2011, as there was no such fuel at the Italian military air base. However, there’s no official information, whether this refers to the new version of the JAS 39E/F with the F414-GE-39E engine.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine Found Ways to Improve Airfields For the F-16: What Could Be the Problem, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
There are more questions than answers about the Gripen fuel, because then separate air tankers are needed / Illustrative photo from open sources

And in this case a negative example was demonstrated concerning compatibility with other NATO requirements, when the supposedly positive feature became a problem (Jet A1 is cheaper than JP-8). At the same time, looking for an aircraft that can be operated in specific requirements, instead of getting rid of own issues , may not be the best option.

But the main thing, as Oleksiy Reznikov emphasized, is to start training Ukrainian pilots as soon as possible. And it is the process that has already been established, which would allow to put it into action almost immediately after the transfer of aircraft. And this, given the terms of fighter pilots training, is extremely important.

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