Photos Show the Power of the F-16 Fighter Jet

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sits in an F-16 fighter jet.
Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

  • Ukraine is betting on the powerful F-16 fighter jet to give them a leg-up in the war against Russia.
  • The F-16 Fighting Falcon can hit speeds of up to 1,500 miles per hour — twice the speed of sound.
  • The multi-role fighter also touts an impressive array of munitions, including bombs and missiles.

Late last year, Ukrainian pilots shifted from flight simulators to training on actual F-16 fighter jets, a combat aircraft that the country hopes will secure an edge in the war with Russia.

Ukraine has long sought to add the Western fighter jet to its diminished fighter fleet of many Soviet-made planes like the Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrums and Sukhoi Su-27 Flankers. Open source researchers have found evidence that Ukraine has lost at least 71 fighter jets since the war’s start.

Though the F-16 isn’t the newest jet the US has, it’s a still valuable and versatile asset in Ukraine’s arsenal, and will help defend Ukraine’s airspace and more effectively fire US-designed missiles.

But when it does hit its target, JDAM bombs can pack a punch.

A 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition explodes on a target in the impact area after being dropped from an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Kevin Clark, Fort McCoy Multimedia/Visual Information Office

Russian maintains formidable air defenses that threaten Ukraine’s fighters anywhere near the frontlines. They will also menace F-16s when they arrive.

The F-16 won’t provide Ukraine the air superiority over Russia it hoped for, it could at least level the playing field. They also are designed to fire weapons that can blind Russia’s air defenses, like the AGM-88 HARM that home in on radars, as BI’s Jake Epstein has reported.

“While F-16s are by no means a wonder weapon that will turn the tide of the war, they will help Ukraine adopt more-Western styles of warfighting — or force it to —and help its military cooperate better with those of NATO,” Brynn Tannehill, now a technical analyst with the Santa Monica-based think tank, RAND Corporation, wrote in a post for The RAND Blog in May 2023.

Tannehill added: “The decision to give Ukraine F-16s is not about helping it survive the next phase of the war, but helping it ensure its sovereignty in the long term.”

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