USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon 170519 CREDIT US Department of Defense
File photo of a US F-16 aircraft (Picture: US Department of Defense).

F-16s v Russian fighter jets: Comparing air power as Ukraine seeks new jets after supply of tanks

USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon 170519 CREDIT US Department of Defense
File photo of a US F-16 aircraft (Picture: US Department of Defense).

With battle tanks from the US and Germany heading to Ukraine, Kyiv is now focusing its efforts on acquiring Western-made fighter planes for use by Ukrainian pilots.

It once seemed an impossible ask, but the Dutch cabinet has said it could look into supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, according to the country's media.

Foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra said during a parliamentary debate the cabinet would look at such a request with an "open mind".

Meanwhile, Frank St John, the chief operating officer of aerospace firm Lockheed Martin, has been reported as saying, in the Financial Times, the company was "going to be ramping production on F-16s in Greenville [South Carolina] to get to the place where we will be able to backfill pretty capably any countries that choose to do third party transfers to help with the current conflict". 

While there is no confirmation any F-16s will be sent to Ukraine as yet, here is a look at what they would bring to the fight and how they compare to Russia's SU-57 stealth fighter.


General characteristics





Primary function

Multirole fighter

Multirole fighter


Lockheed Martin Corp



9.8 m



14.8 m



1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)



More than 2,002 miles ferry range

More than 3,400 miles ferry range 


Above 50,000 feet 

Above 65,000ft


F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two



One M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon and external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles

Four medium-range air-to-air missiles and two short-range infrared homing K-74M2 missiles


The Ukrainians have made no secret that they would like F-16s and the multi-role, highly manoeuvrable, fighter jet is used by many allied nations.

Developed by the US Air Force, it provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system and is capable of both air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack.

Image ID 2A80FRH Sukhoi Su-57 (Felon) is a stealth, single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-gen jet fighter 30082019
The Sukhoi Su-57 is a stealth jet fighter with Nato codename 'Felon' (Picture: PhotoStock-Israel/ Alamy Stock Photo).

F-16s could be up against Russia's most advanced fifth-generation supersonic combat jet, the SU-57, designed for aerial combat and ground and maritime strikes.

According to a recent Ministry of Defence Intelligence (MOD) update, Russia is playing it safe with its stealth jet though, as they are yet to be spotted over Ukrainian skies – if one was shot down it could result in the loss of sensitive information and cause reputational damage.

olish Mig 29 Flying alongside US forces in Febrary 2022 240222 CREDIT US DOD
Polish MiG-29s fly alongside US forces (Picture: US Department of Defense).

At present, the Ukrainian air force is made up of a fleet of ageing Soviet-era fighter jets that came off the assembly line before Kyiv even declared independence more than 31 years ago.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Ukraine possessed around 36 of the MiG-29, or Fulcrum, jets before the invasion by Russia.

The warplanes are used for intercept missions and to attack Russian positions.

The twin-engine, supersonic MiG-29s are the Ukrainian air force's most numerous and, arguably, most versatile planes.

Both Poland and Slovakia considered donating some of their MiG-29 jets but this was previously rejected as a form of Nato support to Ukraine.

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