Ukraine’s F-16 Airfields Are Burning; Reports Say Russia Strikes Ukrainian Bases With Kalibr Cruise Missiles

As Ukraine readies to welcome the first batch of F-16 fighters, there has been an uptick in Russian air strikes targeting Ukrainian airfields in what appears to be Moscow’s attempt to dismantle Kyiv’s infrastructure to operate its Fighting Falcons.

Emerging claims on social media point out that the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) attacked Ukrainian infrastructure, including the airfield in Vasilkov near Kyiv, on June 22, using its sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles. A video was subsequently published on Platform X (previously Twitter) showing at least four missiles in flight.

Another set of photographs surfaced on social media later, showing what is believed to be the destruction caused by the attack. Pro-Russian military bloggers made the claims, but the Ukrainian Armed Forces have yet to comment on the attack.

EurAsian Times could not independently verify the claims. However, as reports started pouring in, several military watchers observed that it appeared to be a strategy aimed at reducing the combat capability of the Ukrainian Air Force by destroying the airfields and bases that would likely host the F-16s.

If the reports are authentic, this may be the second strike on Vasilkov this month. Earlier, some reports in local Russian-language media mentioned that the latest strike targeted an oil depot at the airfield. They also noted that the fire was so strong that the puddles of white foam used to extinguish it were visible from space.

Earlier, Russia launched missile strikes on Starokostyantyniv in the Khmelnytsky area, which is believed to be the location of a sizable Ukrainian air base and is anticipated to host F-16 fighter jets once they arrive.

Russia has repeatedly threatened to strike any Ukrainian airfield that houses the F-16s. Nearly all the airfields that may host the jets are believed to be within the range of Russian missiles. Ukraine announced it would station some F-16s on NATO territory to protect them from Russian attacks.

Ukraine is set to receive the Danish F-16 fighter jets in the coming weeks. In addition to Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium have also pledged the aircraft to Kyiv’s forces. Some of these countries have even suggested that Ukraine could use the planes to launch strikes inside Russia, thus making the Kremlin more wary of their arrival.

While contending with relentless Russian air strikes, Ukraine has been launching assaults aimed at obliterating Russian air defenses ahead of the F-16’s arrival. An assessment by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted earlier this month that Ukrainian forces were intensifying efforts to degrade Russian air defense systems before receiving F-16 fighter jets.

Ukraine has reportedly undertaken this strategic campaign to weaken Russian defenses and allow for the more effective use of manned fixed-wing aircraft in the conflict.

The assessment stated, “Ukrainian forces may seek to actively degrade Russian air defenses before Ukraine receives a significant number of aircraft to set conditions for Ukraine’s future use of manned fixed-wing airpower closer to frontline areas.”

It also pointed out that the recent Ukrainian military actions have targeted key Russian air defense installations. Several visuals show modern air defense systems, like the S-400 struck by Ukrainian drones.

F-16 Fighting Falcon from the Royal Danish Air Force – Wikimedia Commons

The S-300/S-400 air defense systems and Su-57 fighters are crucial for Russia to restrict Ukrainian air operations near the front lines and support its offensive operations in Ukraine. There are indicators that Kyiv has meticulously targeted all these platforms.

As Russia’s offensive gains strength, both sides have been engaged in intense aerial strikes against one another.

Russia, Ukraine Trade Attacks & Accusations

According to Russian authorities, Ukraine’s drone and missile attacks on Crimea on June 23 resulted in six fatalities and over 100 injuries to civilians.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said, “Responsibility for a deliberate missile strike on civilians” lay with both the United States and Ukraine. It claimed that the attack on Ukraine involved ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) missiles provided by the US. It further noted that air defenses overnight shot down 33 Ukrainian drones over the western districts of Bryansk, Smolensk, Lipetsk, and Tula in Russia.

There are also reports indicating that Ukraine allegedly attacked a Russian warehouse that is used to launch Iranian-made drones and train cadets. “New satellite images confirm the destruction on the night of June 21 of the Shahed-136/Geran-2 storage and preparation facilities, training buildings, control and communication points of these UAVs located in the Krasnodar Territory,” naval officials wrote in a post to Facebook.

On its part, Russia has intensified the use of guided bombs to strike Ukrainian territory. A fresh attack on Kharkiv killed at least one person on June 23, while at least five were killed in a similar attack on a residential building in Kharkiv on June 22.

Following the incident, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on his allies to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses in a video speech. “Modern air defense systems for Ukraine — such as Patriots, accelerated training of our pilots for F-16s, and most importantly, sufficient range for our weapons — are truly necessary,” he said.

Besides targeting civilian buildings, Russia also struck Ukraine’s power infrastructure over the weekend. Ukrainian officials stated that Russia launched a huge attack on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, targeting the nation’s power grid. According to Ukraine’s energy ministry, this marked the ninth time Russia has attacked energy infrastructure installations in the last three months.