Due to its characteristics, it would be a fighter from the Dutch Air Force

The first photo of an F-16 fighter with Ukrainian insignia and the details it has revealed

Ukraine has been waiting for almost two years to receive Western fighters to help it face the Russian invasion.

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Planned deliveries of F-16 fighters to Ukraine

After a wait that seemed very long, In August 2023, the shipment of F-16 fighters was finally confirmed. Right now, potential deliveries would come from Denmark (19 aircraft), Norway (between 5 and 10) and the Netherlands (24), three countries that are decommissioning these aircraft from their air forces as they that incorporate the new F-35. Belgium could also send some, but everything depends on the delivery of its F-35s, which arrive late. Deliveries of the first F-16s to Ukraine are planned for 2024 and 2025.

The first photo of an F-16 with Ukrainian insignia

Today, the Ukrainian edition of the Voice of America (VOA), owned by the US government, published an interview with a Ukrainian pilot with radio call sign "Phantom" in which he shows the first photo of an F-16 fighter with Ukrainian insignia. Specifically, we see the Ukrainian showcase just behind the cockpit and the national coat of arms with the Tryzub, the Ukrainian trident, in the drift.

In the photo we see the "Phantom" pilot, with his face covered, in front of the F-16. This is one of the Ukrainian pilots who are training with this fighter. The photo would have been taken at some NATO air base, although the interview does not indicate which one.

The equipment carried by this Ukrainian F-16

The photo shows some interesting details about the equipment that the Ukrainian F-16 would carry:

Here we see, surrounded in yellow, an AN/AAQ-28(V) Litening target designator on the starboard fuselage weapons mount. This designator is manufactured by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and serves to improve the precision in the launch of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, even in adverse weather conditions. Denmark and the Netherlands used these designators on their F-16. Specifically, Denmark used a more advanced version, the AN/AAQ-28(V)8 Litening G4, while the Netherlands used the AN/AAQ-28(V)6 Litening AT Block 2 version.

Judging by the paint of the external fuel tank (a Sargent Fletcher of 370 gallons, 1,564 liters), with the characteristic dark gray frontal cone, this plane could be of Dutch origin (the Danish F-16 did not have the cones on their external tanks painted in this way).

In this other photo we see an AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missile (circled in blue) on the marginal support of the wing. This missile is used by the Danish and Dutch F-16s. It is a radar-guided missile with a maximum speed of Mach 4 (4,939 km/h), capable of hitting targets at a distance of up to 105 km (or 160 km in its most recent versions).

What we see surrounded in red is an AMD (Acceleration Monitoring Device) pod, which looks like an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile painted orange and without the front fins. This device is used to increase the aircraft's radar signature during training, in order to improve its tracking from the ground.

Ukrainian pilots are "very impressed" with the F-16

For the rest, interviewer Maria Prus comments the following: "Ukrainian pilots who train in the US and the EU with the Western fourth-generation F-16 fighters are "very impressed" with this aircraft. At the same time, retraining has its challenges, because this fighter is very different from the Soviet Su-27 and MiG-29, which Ukrainian fighter jets currently fly."

The Ukrainian pilot "Phantom" explains that they had already done exercises with Western pilots before the war. Once the invasion began, "even before it was known which aircraft would replace our obsolete Soviet fleet, we already began to work to change the concept and training. That is, we already understood during these exercises that our approaches, our procedures are very different. And it was the partner pilots, not only Americans, but also from other countries, who formed a kind of online training courses so that we knew in which direction move forward, and then improve and accelerate the recycling of F-16 aircraft."

The current state of training of future Ukrainian F-16 pilots

Phantom adds that "our guys went to one of the United States air bases for a pre-assessment to evaluate their capabilities, skills and determine the terms (of training). Again, these were general terms that we can agree on. And our pilots did not waste time, they prepared as best they could and the pilots themselves helped us with information from open sources, of course, which they were able to share with us, and even your experience."

The Ukrainian pilot explains the current state of preparation of his colleagues and himself in the F-16: "Preparations are in full swing as planned. Not only the pilots are trained, but also, as you know , the ground personnel, our mechanics who will maintain those aircraft, our support units who will ensure that the missions are carried out. They prepare in the same way."

Phantom adds: "According to the terms, as planned, about 6 months of training for a pilot or a group. But there are nuances, and they are mostly not related to our personnel, but with the administrative work of our partners, that is, there is its own bureaucracy and it requires time. Therefore, it affected the preparation time. But it follows the plan."

"This plane simply exceeded their expectations"

Regarding the F-16, Phantom states: "Our pilots are very impressed. This aircraft simply exceeded their expectations. Even with the amount of information they have received during training, already They see great prospects and great potential for how this aircraft will help our Air Force increase our combat aviation capabilities.And you can imagine that there is information that they have not yet learned, that they have not yet been given, about what else could this plane be capable of."

Phantom also talks about the challenges the F-16 has posed for Ukrainian pilots: "it's a new plane for our guys and it was a little difficult at first, because it's a new plane generation, a more digitalized aircraft, has many systems and programs that have to be entered during the flight and before the flight. We have not encountered this,our training is a little different and our aircraft is much simpler than the F -16."

Regarding Ukraine's ability to operate the new aircraft as soon as it receives them, Phantom notes: "The infrastructure, as well as the rest of our personnel, which is now preparing to receive the F-16 aircraft, is being prepared as planned.There are nuances, there are difficulties, but our partners help us with these difficulties. I can assure you that when the F-16 aircraft are ready to be delivered to Ukraine, the infrastructure will be ready , just like our people."

The possibility of Ukraine operating other aircraft such as the A-10 or the Gripen

The interviewer also asks Phantom about the need for other aircraft, such as the American A-10 Thunderbolt II or the Swedish Saab JAS-39 Gripen. The Ukrainian pilot rules out the first: "The A-10 is a very good aircraft in its class. It is very suitable for supporting ground forces from the air. But the realities current in our airspace along and near the combat contact line, as well as near the occupied territories, will not allow them to carry out these tasks, because a component of very large aviation to cover, to clear the airspace of the enemy's means."

As for the Gripen, Phantom has a very high opinion of it: "This is a very modern aircraft, it has gone through many stages of modernization and is currently the official fleet of the Swedish Air Force, can perform both the suppression of enemy air defenses and the task of spot fire damage, as well as what is called a confrontation weapon in English, that is, weapons at a distance that does not allow it reach your aircraft. And it also has great potential against enemy aircraft, and the ones that Russia currently has at its disposal, the Su-35 and Su-30 aircraft, can reach the latest generation Gripen."


Main photo: Koninklijke Luchtmacht. Una foto de archivo de un F-16 de la Real Fuerza Aérea Neerlandesa.

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