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F-16s To Ukraine
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F-16s To Ukraine

A few days ago U.S. President Joe Biden announced the training of Ukrainian pilots for the F-16 multirole fighter aircraft:

President Joe Biden told G7 leaders on Friday that the US would join in efforts to train Ukraine’s pilots on fourth generation fighter jets including the F-16s, a senior administration official told CNN on Friday.

This has obviously been in the planning for some time. The timing of the announcement at the G7 summit was simply chosen to maximize the propaganda value for Biden.

The process we have seen has repeated itself again and again. As pro-Ukrainian blogger (with no military knowledge) describes it:

This has clearly become a proxy war between Russia and NATO, supercharging the political considerations inherent to any war. Ukraine’s goal is to wheedle as much military aid as humanly possibly out of NATO, especially the United States. The United States’ goal is more complex: give enough aid to push Russia back, but not so much that its proxy war with Russia escalates into an actual one.

This dynamic has created a Hunger Games scenario where Ukraine is constantly playing to the cameras to cajole extra gifts from the wealthy sponsors who watch its every move over the internet in real time. I had decided against using this analogy until I saw Ukrainians themselves using it. There is something grotesque and sobering about finding yourself in this position, and writing about it. But it is what it is.

I had assumed that F-16 training had in fact already started several weeks back. The EU blabber mouth Josep Borrell now all but confirmed it:

The European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Tuesday that the US green light to allow Ukrainian pilots to get training to fly F-16s has created an inexorable momentum that will inevitably bring the fighter jets to the Ukrainian battlefield.
Borrell added that training for Ukrainian pilots had already begun in Poland and some other countries, though authorities in Warsaw could not immediately confirm the news. The Netherlands and Denmark, among others, are also making plans for such training.

No decision on actually delivering fourth-generation fighter jets has been taken yet, but training pilots now – a process that takes several months – will help speed up battle readiness once a formal decision is made.

The process will be much faster than many assume.

The jets the Ukraine will get have already been selected and will go through ready maintenance. The Ukrainian pilots, who already have some experience on other fighter jets, will get just a short introduction course - six to eight weeks or even less. They do not need to train air to air fights because the F-16 would lose any such fight against the newer and better armed Russian jets. They just need to learn the basics, starting, landing, going up to a certain height and launch point, release whatever long range weapon will be on board. Anything else would be suicide.

The big question is where to start and land from. The F-16 has a relative short combat range of some 500 kilometer and there will be no air to air tankers. There ain't that many airfield that are suitable for the fighter jet's missions.

Someone who seems competent explains the problem (edited):

The Ukrainian Air Force, to my knowledge, has had to use guerilla airfield tactics to keep the Russians guessing as to where they are operating from. This is to prevent Moscow from targeting the aircraft/impromptu airfield from drone attacks and air strikes, destroying stationary aircraft or the rendering the “runway” unusable. Soviet-built aircraft are sublimely suited to this.

For ex, the MiG-29 “Fulcrum” uses automatic Foreign Object Debris (FOD) covers that 

 (vid). Meanwhile louvres located at the top of the wing-root open to provide alternate air intake to the jet engines. Upon take off, once the weight on wheels (WoW) switch in the nose gear detects it is off the ground, the louvers cycle closed and the FOD covers on the primary intake retract, allowing max airflow to the engines once the danger of FOD damage has passed. This ingenious design allows the Fulcrum to operate, not only from unimproved runways or even highways, but even from grass fields. The wing itself and the distance to the ground preventing small stones and debris from getting sucked into the delicate engines.

I cannot stress how dangerous and debilitating FOD is to aircraft. A single rock, bolt, nut, or minor road debris can have a cataclysmic effect on a modern high-performance jet engine. It may not even happen immediately, the damage could happen on take off, then progressively get worse during flight as the blades, now potentially bent or unbalanced begin to self-destruct the engine internals. Even if a MiG-29 happens to shell out an engine because of the careless placement of a bolt or tool by a mechanic or the ingestion of a bird during flight or take off, the MiG HAS TWO ENGINES which are isolated in separate bays, preventing the destruction of one engine from FOD-ing out the second.

The F-16, by contrast, is definitely not suited for this style of airfield. The bottom of the intake lip sits approximately 30” from the ground with no provision of alternate intake. In addition, all the suction flow of that air comes from the sides, fore, and ground since no air can be ingested from above the engine (that’s where the fuselage is). With no provision for FOD protection or alternate, high-mounted intakes during the entire time spent on the ground, this calls for rigid and inflexible FOD control measures from the location of engine start, to taxiing routes to the runway.

In the USAF, this meant hundreds of maintainers walking at arms-length intervals two to three times a day with eyes on the ground looking for any and every piece of debris that could be ingested by the multi-million dollar vacuum cleaner with only ONE engine we were charged with maintaining. In addition, an almost constant procession of street-cleaners rumbled up and down the flightline, taxiways and runway. Everything had to be spotless lest we risk the aircraft, or worse, the pilots.

Imagine the preparation it would take to complete this process on a 10,000 foot long straight highway, in the dark, while trying to be as inconspicuous as possible so as not to draw the attention of collaborators or Russian spies. You couldn’t hop from highway to highway or run from unimproved airfields like the Ukrainian Air Force can do with MiG-29s, you’d be handcuffed or at the very least less mobile. Imagine a disused Soviet airfield that suddenly had all its weeds plucked from the cracks in the concrete, concrete patched, the runway spotless. What signal does that send? “F-16s could, will, or are operating from here.”

There are several other issues discussed in the above thread. The maintenance philosophy behind U.S. and Russian build planes is different. The Russians just change factory parts and systems, U.S. maintainer try to repair them locally:

The MiG-29 averages about 11 hrs of maintenance for every ONE hr of flight. The F-16? A whopping increase to 18.5 maintenance hrs for every one hr of flight time. These are per aircraft with experienced crews. These figures also assume decent airframe hours on the aircraft.

The Ukraine will also need a sufficient number of competent maintainers. The training for them will likely take more time than for the pilots. The author of the above suggests a solution:

Plenty of mechanics in Europe and the US are happy to lend their services to the UAF as members of the “International Legion” or the modern day iteration of the “Flying Tigers”. Myself included.

Well, good luck doing maintenance on the F-16s that will soon sit on those few available and thereby quite vulnerable Ukrainian airfields.

Russian air defenses, from the ground and from the air, can certainly suppress any F-16 flights coming near to them.

The only sensible purpose of those planes is thereby their one or two time use as a launching vehicles for long range missiles like the British Storm Shadow cruise missiles that were given to Ukraine. It is easy to train for those missions but I doubt that they will make any noticeable difference.




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SCOTT RITTER : “Ukraine, before and after.”
Scott Ritter’s take.

Scott Rittera former Marine intelligence officer with a distinguished records as a weapons inspector, seems to us among the most interesting analysts now looking at the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine from the perpective of a man who once wore a uniform. We recently met Ritter at Mut zur Ethik, a twice-a-year forum in Zurich’s environs, and were much taken by his view of the war and its broader significance. We are pleased to welcome Ritter into our pages (and plan soon to publish a Q & A we conducted while in Switzerland). Here we reproduce one of the speeches Ritter delivered, of several, at the Mut zur Ethik gathering held 13 September.

—P. L. and C. M.



Scott Ritter

1 SEPTEMBER—It’s an honor and a privilege to be here to have an opportunity to talk to you. I wish we could talk about better subjects. I wish we were in a time we could talk about moving forward with a confidence the world would move forward with us, but we live in difficult times. 

Today I’ve been asked to address “global geopolitics in the context of the Ukrainian conflict.” I think when historians look back on the events that are transpiring today you’re going to be speaking of “BU” and “AU” the same way we speak of “BC” and “AD.” “BU” is “before Ukraine,”  “AU” is “after Ukraine.” The Ukrainian war, ladies and gentlemen, has changed everything. 

The world that exists today is a fundamentally different world than existed before the conflict in Ukraine began. And when I say “the conflict in Ukraine” let’s just be clear: In reality, the conflict in Ukraine has been going on for decades. But the conflict I speak of is the conflict that has transpired since the decision by Vladimir Putin to send Russian troops into Ukraine on the 24th of February 2022. 

I have the honor and privilege twice a year to advise a board of some of the world’s most powerful and influential people, and those, of course, are people who operate in the oil and gas industry They make a lot of money and money equals power. 

I was brought in to talk geopolitics, and for several years now I’ve been hammering away at two things trying to convince these leaders of global industry that the world is evolving, that you need to evolve with it or you are going to be left behind. I spoke of the fact that the world is evolving away from an American singularity to a multipolarity, where America is no longer viewed by the world as the global hegemony—where, instead, America will have to learn to participate in a global community of equals. They have said, “No. Because that would require America to depart from the rules-based international order.” Which, of course, are rules that the United States wrote in the aftermath of the Second Word War to continue to empower ourselves. 

The rules-based international order is a sharp deviation from the principles, for instance, of the United Nation’s Charter, which speaks of multipolarity, global equality, and all that kind of nonsense. When I say “nonsense,” I mean from an American perspective because we don’t believe in any of that, we believe in the sole empowerment of the United States.

Many of these leaders of industry are American. They lead multinational corporations, but the multinational corporations don’t enrich multi-nations. They enrich the United States. Therefore, they need the rules-based international order to continue to exist, to maintain the system of enrichment that they have put in place over the course of the past 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 years. 

The other thing I brought up to them is that for those who believe that America can impose its will on the world no matter what. Even if we run into an economic hiccup, we will be able to resolve this hiccup in our favor by projecting military power, which is unmatched: There is nobody in the world that can match the Americans in terms of military power. I said, “Those days are over, too.” 

They did not want to hear this. But I brought up the reality that twenty years of endless war in the so-called global war on terror had fundamentally transformed the lethality of the American military. No longer were we trained, armed, equipped, or prepared to fight a land-based war in Europe or a large-scale conflict in the Pacific. We, instead, had broken our military in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria—we no longer had the skill set. They didn’t want to hear that, either. They said, “No. America has aircraft carriers, America has armored brigades, America is America and the world will never be able to defeat America.”

That was “before Ukraine.” After Ukraine, a new reality has set in. Before Ukraine, the United States was able to convince Europe that Russia could be sanctioned into submission. I know we laugh about it today, when we reflect on the ludicrous nature of the overconfidence of those who thought so. But those who have memories that can go back simply two years remember, in the leadup to the conflict, how the United States said over and over and over again, “We will bring Russia to its knees.” That,  “Together with the West, we will sanction Russia, we will break the will of Russia. Russia will fold. Even if Russia were to go into Ukraine militarily they could not sustain this attack because their economy will fail.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the Russian economy today is stronger than it has ever been largely because of the economic sanctions: “before Ukraine,” “after Ukraine.” But it’s more than simply the empowerment of the Russian economy. It’s how the world thinks about America: The American singularity is over. 

Just the other week there was a meeting in South Africa of the BRICS organization—five “developing nations,” we call them. Is China a developing nation? Is India a developing nation? These are developed nations. Now, they haven’t been able to come together before Ukraine. There were internal squabbles: India and China didn’t get along, the Russian economy wasn’t so hot. Who knew about Brazil? Was the African continent ready for development? These are questions that were thrown out there. There is no longer talk about that. BRICS  prior to last week was a concept that had promise. BRICS today is a reality that has changed the world. Notice that I didn’t say “changing” the world. I said “changed the world.” 

Let me tell you what happened when BRICS came together and expanded. America went from being number one to being number two. The day of the American singularity is over. It’s past, it’s done, it’s finished, it’s gone. We haven’t, maybe, realized it yet. Americans might believe that we’re still number one, but we’re not. We’ve been bypassed by BRICS. Well, you’ll say, “Wait a minute Scott, that’s many nations.” What do you think multipolarity means, ladies and gentlemen? It means many nations working together. And multipolarity is no longer a theory: It’s a reality. 

The reality of BRICS is such that America is number two. It will forever be number two because it will not have the economic strength to surpass the multipolar organization known as BRICS, which is expanding as we speak. And an interesting thing about BRICS is that we tried to keep Russia off the agenda. We tried to keep Vladimir Putin away from that meeting. He attended by proxy with his foreign minister, [Sergei] Lavrov. He attended by video. He dominated the proceedings, ladies and gentlemen. Russia will be the chair of BRICS starting in January 2024. When BRICS expands from its current membership of five, adding six, Vladimir Putin will be the head of BRICS. And when BRICS meets again next summer and they talk about brining ten nations in, Vladimir Putin will be the head of BRICS. 

It’s backfired. Everything we do has backfired. And it’s not just economically. Militarily: Prior to Ukraine, before Ukraine, BU—I’m trying to inject this concept into people’s minds—before Ukraine, people did fear the American military. With good cause. We go to war a lot. There is lethality associated with what we do. In Europe, NATO believed that it was a powerful military alliance. NATO believed that when NATO flexed its muscle people listened—before Ukraine. After Ukraine, NATO has been exposed as a paper tiger. A paper tiger. 

There is no military strength in NATO. NATO has no capacity to project meaningful military power beyond the borders of Europe. NATO cannot fight a war along the lines of the war that’s being fought in Ukraine today. Don’t believe me, believe General Christopher Cavoli, four-star American general, commander of U.S. forces, supreme allied commander. He said in a Swedish defense forum last January (2022), that NATO could not imagine the scope and scale of the violence taking place in Ukraine today. Think about that. 

What do military people do? We prepare for the future. We prepare for the future based upon what we imagine. We imagine something, we create capabilities to meet that which we imagine. If we have not imagined the scope and scale of the violence taking place in Ukraine today, that means we’re not ready for it. We haven’t trained for it, we haven’t equipped for it, we haven’t organized for it. We can’t fight it. And this is a fact. 

Right now there’s a counteroffensive taking place in Ukraine. The Ukrainian army has three brigades trying to take the town, the village, of Robotyne. Three brigades. That’s 15,00 men. Imagine NATO putting three brigades on the line right now. They can’t. NATO cannot put three brigades on the line. But imagine if they did: They’ve assaulted the village, they’ve been repulsed by the Russians. So three brigades are now being pulled out, three more are being brought in, in a complex passage of lines. NATO has not done a six-brigade passage of lines ever. And Ukraine is doing it under fire. They’re failing, but they are doing it. [Editor’s note: As of 8 September, Moscow acknowledged withdrawing forces from Robotyne.] 

That war that’s taking place right now in Zaporizhzhia, in Kherson, in Luhansk, in Donetsk: It’s a war that NATO cannot fight. And now the world knows it. NATO is a paper tiger. The world knows it’s a paper tiger. They know the United States cannot meet its stated desire to reinforce Europe in a fashion. Ukraine has lost 400,000 men in battle, 40,000 to 50,000 in the last several weeks. It took America ten years to lose 58,000 in Vietnam and that broke our back. Can you imagine a situation where the United States military was asked to sacrifice 40,000 men in two weeks? Can you imagine a situation when any European army was asked to sacrifice 40,000 men in two weeks? The fact of the matter is: We can’t win a war today in Europe. We’re not number one anymore. We’re not number two anymore. We might be number three. 

But this is a reality. It’s not just in Europe that we can’t prevail. It’s in the Pacific. Don’t believe me, believe Lieutenant General Samuel Clinton Hinote. He was the deputy chief of staff of the United States Air Force. He just recently retired. But his job was strategy. And what he did for the last four years is war-game every potential scenario of conflict between the United Sates and China in the Pacific. And he recently, before his retirement, went to the Pentagon and went to the White House, and said the following: Cease and desist your policies that push us to a potential military confrontation with China. Because if it does become a kinetic fight between the United States and China, there is no scenario in which we win. We lose every single time. And there is nothing we can do in the immediate future to change that outcome. We have to change the way we interface with China. 

That’s why Tony Blinken went to China in July. You remember that trip? He went—he had to go through thirty Chinese officials before he got to Xi Jinping—for a thirty-minute lesson in humility. The reason why he had to go there is because the United States had to hit pause on its China policy: Stop the path towards confrontation. We had just had a situation in the Strait of Taiwan where an American ship was almost rammed by a Chinese ship. And the Pentagon said, “If they do hit us, what do we do? Sink them?” And now the scenarios begin: If we sink them they retaliate, we retaliate, how does it end? Well, General Samuel Clinton Hinote said that it ends only one way every time: America loses.  

This is the reality today. We lose because we don’t have the capacity. But before Ukraine nobody understood that. Nobody believed that. Everybody believed that America was the supreme military power in the world. Today, the blinders have come off. Economically, we’re number two. Maybe we can maintain that position, maybe not. Militarily, we’re number three. And who knows where we’ll go with that. Because our military is a broken system. We spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a system that produces nothing beneficial to the defense of the United State. Let alone the defense of its allies. How can you spend $900 billion a year and say we can’t fight and prevail in a land war in Europe against the Russian army that spends $68 billion a year? It’s because our system is broken. But that’s another question. 

Ukraine has changed everything. Before Ukraine, America was number one, at least perception-wise. After Ukraine, American is number two economically, number three militarily, and this is a reality that the world is accepting. It’s not Scott Ritter saying this in a closed community to oil and gas executives. It’s Scott Ritter saying this while the rest of the world acknowledges this. Russia knows this. Russia no longer fears the American military. It’s not that they want to go to war against the America military, but Russia knows its capabilities. It’s been tested. China knows this, as well. 

When will Europe know it? When will Europe realize that NATO is a false prophet? When will Europe realize that the money you put into NATO is wasted money? When will Europe realize that instead of pursuing war you should be pursuing peace? It’s time for Europe to wake up. Because if you don’t, if you continue to believe in the myth of American hegemony, the myth of American supremacy—because it is a myth, it isn’t real anymore, it exists in the minds of American politicians, but it doesn’t exist in the way the world operates today. Europe has to decide: Do you want to become a prisoner in a cage of your own construct? Because that’s what’s happening. The world is bypassing America. The world is moving on with their collective life. And the American singularity is in the rearview mirror going backwards. 

Thank you very much.



Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika: Arms Control and the End of the Soviet Union (Clarity, 2023). He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, served on General Schwarzkopf's staff during the Gulf War, and, from 1991 to 1998, was a chief weapons inspector with the U.N. in Iraq. In addition to his writing arms control and nonproliferation, Ritter currently writes commentary and analysis on international security, military affairs, Russia, and the Middle East.

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Scott Ritter: ATACMS – The Latest American Poison Pill for Ukraine
Scott Ritter explains why ATACMS will not affect the course of the special military operation and will not be a wunderwaffe for Ukrainian troops.

Back in July 2022, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, pushing back against increasing demands from Ukraine and its American backers in Congress, the State Department, and the Pentagon that the Biden administration provide Ukraine with the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, declared that providing Ukraine with this weapon would risk putting the US and Russia on “the road towards a third world war.”

Ukraine had been demanding that the ATACMS, a 300-kilometer range solid-fuel guided missile, be included in the list of weapons Ukraine claimed it needed to successfully execute its much-touted “counteroffensive.” Now, with the “counteroffensive”, which has been underway for more than three months, floundering in the face of a Russian defense that had proven more capable than originally thought by the NATO military planners who helped the Ukrainians craft it, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, suddenly announced that the Biden administration was considering reversing course on the issue of providing Ukraine with ATACMS. Left unsaid was to what extent, if any, the Biden administration had addressed the issue of a third world war with Russia, and whether the ATACMS was still considered to be a likely trigger for its initiation.



One theory that is making its way around Washington, DC, is that the Biden administration, after successive arms procurement decisions (HIMARS, the M-1 Abrams, and the F-16) appeared to cross so-called Russian “red lines” without generating any appreciable Russian reaction, believed that the Russians would likewise allow the introduction of the ATACMS to take place without provoking a crisis akin to a third world war. The underlying analysis for this assessment is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is bluffing when it comes to the so-called “red lines”, and that the US can provide Ukraine the weapons it needs to successfully prosecute its stalled counteroffensive.
There are two major problems with this assessment. First, it makes certain assumptions about Russia’s so-called “red lines”, and the consequences which would accrue to Ukraine and its Western partners if these lines were crossed. Russia has, to date, only articulated two definitive “red lines” when it comes to the ongoing Special Military Operation against Ukraine. The first is the direct involvement of US and/or NATO forces in the conflict, whether by putting boots on the ground in Ukraine, or intervening in Belarus. The second was any military situation which threatened the existential survival of the Russian nation. In both circumstances, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has decreed that Russia would use all the means at its disposal to respond to the threat, up to and including nuclear weapons. All other so-called “red lines” are speculative in nature, made by persons other than the President.
Second, it assumes that the ATACMS is a game-changing technology whose presence on the battlefield will have a meaningful and telling impact on the ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to prevail in combat against their Russia foes. The ATACMS is a 50-year-old system which the US Army stopped buying in 2007. While the ATACMS has been the beneficiary of a Service Life Extension Program designed to keep the missile from failing once launched due to old age, it remains an aging system with limited capabilities.
If employed by Ukraine, the ATACMS will find itself targeted by Russian anti-missile weapons that will intercept the rocket prior to reaching its target and jam the guidance systems using electronic-warfare capabilities considered to be among the most effective in the world. There is no doubt that an ATACMS missile is capable of inflicting considerable harm and damage on any target it can strike. But the reality is that most of the ATACMS missiles will be shot down before they reach their target, a fact the military planners in the Pentagon are only too aware of. In short, ATACMS is the antithesis of a “magic” weapon designed to strengthen Ukrainian military capacity. It is, like every US weapons system that preceded it, a poison pill, doomed to destroy all who consume it.
The issue at hand isn’t Russian weakness or lack of fortitude, but rather American fickleness which, when combined with a strategy that has always been about inflicting the maximum amount of harm on Russia with the least amount of risk to the US when it comes to American and NATO casualties. In short, the decisions made by the United States regarding the provision of military equipment have been done with a strong domestic political aspect, driven by pressures accrued from within the US establishment that is generated by Ukrainian “needs” that are dictated more by the need to appease their Western masters than generate war-winning capacity. ATACMS, like HIMARS, the M-1, and the F-16, are simply the equivalent of candy sprinkles spread on top of the self-licking ice cream cone that is US military support to Ukraine.
Missing in this equation are the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men who have been maimed and killed because of this craven American posture, and the millions of Ukrainian lives that have been displaced and disrupted because of an American strategy that seeks to inflict harm on Russia “to the last Ukrainian.” American politicians and pundits gloat that the US policy has been a success, given the number of Russian casualties that have been inflicted simply by spending money. But no one talks about the Ukrainian dead, the Ukrainian wounded, the Ukrainian victims, because in the US and Europe, the Ukrainian people simply do not count. They are resources to be expended as casually as the dollars and euros allocated by the so-called principled representatives of western democracy. The possible provision of ATACMS to Ukraine is merely the most recent manifestation of the inhumanity when it comes to the slaughter of Slavs—Ukrainian and Russian alike—in a conflict conceived, facilitated, and sustained by the so-called Collective West.



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