1st Image Of F-16 Fighter With ‘Flimsy’ Ukrainian Marking Surfaces; Russia Increases Production Of Anti-Aircraft Missiles

The Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) announced the Kalashnikov Concern will double its output of Kitolov-2 shells, Strela anti-aircraft missiles, and Vikhr-1 guided missiles as Ukraine gets closer to acquiring F-16 fighting falcons. 

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the Defense Ministry brought the need for anti-aircraft-guided missiles to the company’s management’s notice. The defense minister emphasized that anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles are necessary and that all assets of critical infrastructure and economy- oil, gas, and refining – will be protected using these missiles. 

The 9M333 Strela anti-aircraft missiles can target drones, cruise missiles, low-flying aircraft, and helicopters, even during optical jamming.

The Strela-10M series of air defense systems shield ground forces against air assault and reconnaissance aircraft operating at low and extremely low altitudes during battle and while on the march. At the moment, it’s among the most extensively used air defense systems globally.

Russia launched batch production of a new guided missile 9M333 for the air defense systems of the Strela-10M family. Russia has extensively deployed the Strela in the ongoing battle.

However, its efficacy in shooting down hostile drones has been called into question by several military watchers. The Strela heat-seeking missiles, designed to home in on the hot exhaust of a jet engine, are finding it difficult to lock on to small drones with low infra-red signatures.

Military experts have noted that Russian surface-to-air heat-seeking missiles are fitted with impact fuses, which works well with big targets like aircraft. This means the anti-aircraft systems can still fare well against Ukrainian combat jets, especially as Kyiv is slated to receive F-16 fighter jets from its NATO counterparts.

An image doing rounds on social media shows a Lockheed Martin aircraft at an airbase. The F-16 looks to be in Europe, probably at Fetesti Air Base in Romania, where it is being used as a NATO training facility for ground and aircrew members from Ukraine.

Some Dutch F-16 jets are present at the site for training. However, the painting on the aircraft’s fuselage is inconsistent with the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s combat aircraft.

A Ukrainian military expert who did not wish to be identified told the Eurasian Times that it appears to be a photoshopped image. He added that the Ukrainian colors were added over red/white Danish markings.

Although Ukraine has not received F-16 fighters yet, there is optimism that the aircraft will be delivered later this year. The readiness of Ukraine’s infrastructure and pilots, among other things, will determine the delivery schedule, according to officials from Denmark and the Netherlands. The pilots are still undergoing training.

For one, the first batch of planes may be coming from the Netherlands. On December 22, Dutch Defense Ministry spokesman Mark Rutte said that additional fighter jets might be supplied later. Still, the prime minister stated his government has begun preparing the first 18 of the aircraft.

Photoshopped Image Of F-16

The delivery date of the six aircraft Denmark was supposed to provide by the end of 2023 has reportedly been moved up to six months. Copenhagen indicated that a total of 19 aircraft would be sent. The minister of defense for Belgium has committed to several aircraft, which should arrive in 2025.

Several Ukrainian publications have observed that Ukraine is expected to have at least a few F-16s in service by late spring or early summer. While this is still not written in stone, there is jubilation in Kyiv, and the Ukrainian Air Force is making preparations on a war footing. Against that backdrop, Russia’s increasing production of its anti-aircraft systems may be significant. 

The Russians are also increasing production of Vikhr-1 guided missiles, which have been extensively deployed in the ongoing battle and fired from attack helicopters. Vikhr is an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) system launched from the air. Each Ka-52 can carry twelve Vikhr transport and launch containers with ATGMs.

The 9M127-1 Vikhr-1 ATGM is a supersonic missile with a 12-kilogram tandem HEAT warhead and laser guidance. No matter where it hits a tank, the missile can defeat any contemporary tank because it can pierce 1200mm of armor.

Even faster-moving aerial targets—up to 800 kilometers/hour—can be targeted by the Vikhr-1 missile. The Vikhr-1’s 10-kilometer range is double that of the Stinger MANPADS. Meanwhile, Russian helicopters are also practicing firing anti-tank unguided munitions on mock targets in far-off regions.

Baltic Fleet’s helicopters Fire Unguided Missiles 

At a training range close to Kaliningrad, crews of the Baltic Fleet’s Mi-24 attack helicopters and multipurpose Mi-8 naval aviation helicopters practiced using weapons by flying roughly 20 sorties and launching missiles at fortifications, strongholds, and other imaginary enemy facilities. The fleet’s press office has reported on these exercises, TASS News Agency reported. 

“Helicopter pilots practiced using air-launched weapons against surface targets at a range of 500 meters to 3,000 meters from minimum and medium altitudes, providing fire support for units of the fleet’s coastal forces,” the news release said. “Strikes on targets were carried out by single helicopters or pairs of helicopters with 80-mm unguided missiles S-8”.

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The press office stated that low-altitude flights along designated routes over rough terrain during inclement weather and in the face of enemy defense countermeasures were given particular attention. There was substantial use of tactics and methods developed from battle experience obtained during the special military operation.

Attack helicopters Mi-24 can destroy enemy manpower on the front lines and in tactical depth, armored and unarmored, small and area ground and surface, low-speed and low-flying air targets. It can also support troops on the march and during operations deep within enemy defenses. Mi-24 helicopters can also be used for various purposes, such as mining terrain, fire control, reconnaissance, and surveillance.

Multipurpose Mi-8 helicopters can be employed for airlifting paratroopers, ammunition, weaponry, freight, food, medicine, fire support, fire emplacement suppression, and evacuation of the dead and injured.