F-16 characterized as ‘Swiss Army knife of the battlefield’ — and a game changer for Ukraine in its bid to oust Russian invaders

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‘It’s the Swiss Army knife of the battlefield.’

That’s James Stavridis, the retired four-star U.S. Navy admiral and military analyst, referring to the U.S.-made F-16 “multimission” fighter jet, explaining that “it can do air-to-air combat [and] shoot down Russian jets. It can do air-to-ground — strike at Russian targets on the ground. It can do electronic warfare and jam [enemy communications].”

“It’s perhaps,” Stavridis said in an interview Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “not the best at anything, but it’s very, very good at everything.”

The fighters — introduced by General Dynamics, now part of Lockheed Martin LMT, -0.28%, in 1978 and since, according to Stavridis, upgraded “constantly” — are now set to be for the first time provided by a coalition of Western allies to the Ukrainian air force, over which the Russian military has possessed effective air superiority through the first 15 months of the full-scale war.

President Joe Biden told allies at the G-7 leaders summit in Hiroshima, Japan, which ended Sunday, that he was dropping his opposition to the provision of F-16s to Ukraine, having reportedly signed off in specific on a plan to train Ukrainian pilots to operate them. He said he’d received blanket assurance from Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, that the jets would not be used to strike targets inside Russia and thus widen the war.

See: Biden said to have told G-7 allies in Hiroshima that he’s signed off on plan to train Ukraine pilots to fly U.S.-made F-16s

Stavridis said in the Monday interview that the F-16 is used by some 25 air forces around the world, most of them U.S. allies. “A lot of Western pilots know how to fly it, and we know how to train people to use it,” said the retired admiral.

Biden, asked at the tail end of his Hiroshima press conference early Sunday morning U.S. time whether he was concerned about the Kremlin remark that the provision of F-16s to Ukraine by the Western allies represented “a colossal risk,” deadpanned: “It is for them.”


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