Russia is raising a stink about F-16s in Ukraine by saying they're nuclear-capable, even though the types of warplanes already deployed there can carry nukes

  • Russia said on Monday that it would treat F-16s in Ukraine as an escalation because they’re nuclear-capable.

  • The Foreign Ministry said it would consider the delivery of the jets as a “purposeful provocation.”

  • Meanwhile, the warplanes already used by Ukraine can technically be fitted to deploy nukes too.

Russia warned on Monday against the expected arrival of F-16s in Ukraine, saying the US warplanes would be treated as an escalation given their potential as nuclear weapons platforms.

“No matter what modification of the aircraft will be supplied, we will treat them as nuclear-capable and we will consider this step of the United States and NATO as a purposeful provocation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, per state media Sputnik.

The ministry blamed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for pushing the war in Ukraine closer to “the point where it will attain ‘critical mass’ and explode.”

Ukraine is expected to receive its first promised F-16s from NATO members soon. Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands have pledged several dozen F-16s to Kyiv, and Ukrainian pilots have been training to use the jets.

Meanwhile, Russia has for months said the delivery of the F-16s is a provocation from NATO because they can be fitted to carry nuclear weapons.

“If they do not understand this, then they are worthless as military strategists and planners,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in June.

But it’s unclear how the F-16s alone would make a significant difference in any nuclear strike against Russia, since some Soviet warplanes used by Ukraine, such as the Su-24 and MiG-29, can already be modified to carry nuclear weapons.

The Su-24’s capability in this regard was even cited by Russian ally Belarus, which said in August 2022 that its military had tweaked its Su-24s to carry tactical nukes. Minsk said it was ready to deploy the weapons in response to Western threats.

While Soviet planes like the Su-24 are not designed to carry a theoretically Western-supplied nuclear payload, Kyiv and its NATO allies were previously able to modify warplanes for Western arms.

Ukraine’s Su-24 can now launch the British Storm Shadow missile, though it’s not immediately clear if this success can be repeated with nuclear weapons.

In any case, Ukraine does not possess any nuclear weapons in its arsenal, having surrendered them in 1994 when it gained independence. It is subject to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Russia, on its part, has regularly threatened to use tactical nukes if it feels certain red lines have been crossed by the West, though it’s been accused of saying this as a bluff.

The F-16 is hailed as a significant upgrade to Kyiv’s old Soviet-era fleet, with a longer range, better weapons capabilities, and other improvements like maneuverability. They’re also better aligned with much of the US equipment that Ukraine has been receiving, such as high-speed anti-radiation missiles, meant for ground targets.

Yet in a war where neither Kyiv nor Moscow has been able to achieve air superiority, observers are unsure how significantly the F-16 will change the landscape of the conflict.

Russia has deployed advanced air defense systems like the S-400, some of which are more sophisticated and effective than the threats faced by F-16s in previous war zones, Business Insider’s Jake Epstein reported.

“There is a gazillion ways to detect these F-16s,” Brynn Tannehill, a defense analyst and former US Navy aviator, told Epstein.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top