Colonel: downing A-50s is part of Ukraine's preparation for the arrival of F-16s

11.03.2024 12:30
Heidi Saar

Recent reports underscore Ukraine's significant achievement in downing or incapacitating several Russian aircraft, a feat that could potentially open the doors for the deployment of new planes from the West, as emphasized by Estonian Air Force Chief of Staff Col. Janek Lehiste. The situation at the front has intensified, writes ERR. Lehiste is noting a change in Russian tactics, with a strong emphasis on the use of air support for advancement.

Lehiste elaborated on Russia's strategic shift, underlining the effectiveness of air support in inflicting significant damage to defense lines. Despite this, Ukraine successfully neutralized Russian A-50 command and control aircraft, a move that has significantly impacted Russian combat flexibility. Lehiste attributed Russia's increased vulnerability to flying closer to the contact line, resulting in the downing of approximately 13 aircraft in February.

Ukraine's military strategy is bolstered by a combination of long-range and medium-range air defense systems, particularly the Patriot systems, with an estimated range of 150 kilometers, according to Lehiste. The downing of Russian aircraft serves as a signal of Ukraine's readiness for the deployment of new planes, including the prospect of receiving F-16 fighters from the West in the upcoming spring or summer.

Lehiste suggested that Ukraine's actions aim to create conditions for deploying new aircraft, achieving air superiority, and supporting ground operations. Notably, he highlighted that minimal infrastructure changes are required to deploy F-16 fighter jets in Ukraine, using existing facilities without the need for significant reconstruction.

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