War in Ukraine: Putin's soldiers need to watch out

War in Ukraine: Putin's soldiers need to watch out


  • Ukrainian pilots are being trained by Norwegian officers on F-16 aircraft in Denmark, which could strengthen Ukraine's defense against Russia.
  • Russian forces have recently captured new cities, and Kharkiv is constantly being bombed.
  • Experts believe that the F-16s could reduce Russian air superiority, but it will take some time before they are fully operational.

In recent days, Russian forces have taken control of new cities in Ukraine at the same time that the city of Kharkiv is being subjected to continuous bombing. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday that it had taken control of the village of Andreevka.

President Volodymyr Zelensky believes that Russia is exploiting the weakness of Ukrainian air defense to launch brutal attacks on regions and cities on the front.

It may reduce Russia's advantage

When the donated Norwegian F-16s enter the war, they could help reduce the range advantage that Russian fighter jets have in Ukraine today.

– How much will depend on the weapons that the Ukrainians will receive. In the long term, the F-16, and perhaps especially knowledge of ongoing operations with Ukraine's partners, will be useful, Norwegian Air Force School (LKSK) associate professor Lars Peder Haga tells Dagbladet.

Norwegian contribution: The Danish Air Force is leading the Norwegian contribution, with Norway providing trainers and an unknown number of aircraft. Video: Fabian Helmersen/Forsvaret, Reporter: Simon Sonstrud/Dagbladet
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He says this could make it easier for Ukrainians to master more sophisticated tactics when defending themselves against Putin's soldiers.

There is something that will make them a more dangerous opponent for the Russians to consider, says Haga, who points out that the Ukrainians will likely have to content themselves with continuing to fight in the minority.

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On Thursday this week, Rolf Volland, the commander of Norway's air forces, was able to demonstrate how Ukrainian pilots are trained to operate F-16 fighter jets donated by Norway.

Pilots are trained for war

Since Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine in February 2022, fighter jets have been needed to defend itself against Vladimir Putin's soldiers.

Ukrainian pilots receive training on F-16 aircraft from Norwegian forces in Denmark Major General Rolf Volland, Chief of the Air Force. Photo: Henning Liljegaard/Dagbladet
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Despite the standard training of F-16 aircraft systems in about half a year, it can be understood that Ukrainian pilots will be sent to the war against Russia. Many military experts who spoke to Dagbladet believe it will take a month or two before it becomes a reality.

– Ukrainian pilots received basic training that they can build on in the future. They want to learn part of the weapons systems, but it is simply not possible to learn the entire system in such a short time, says Lars Peder Haga.

He points out that this must be done through repeated flying to gain experience. Being a fighter pilot is a career in which you constantly learn something through exercises and operations.

– You build experience, and this is especially important in more complex operations where several different types of aircraft work together and distribute work tasks. It's something you normally learn after the basic training Ukrainian pilots now receive, says Haga.

Expert: Associate Professor of Luftkrigskolen (LKSK) Lars Peder Haga.  Image: lexk

Expert: Associate Professor of Luftkrigskolen (LKSK) Lars Peder Haga. Image: lexk
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– They became better pilots

Lt. Col. Bard Bakke, commander of the Norwegian F-16 Contribution Detachment at Skridstrup Airfield in Denmark, believes that the biggest challenge in training Ukrainian pilots is the time they have available.

– We want to make the pilots as good as possible, but the gradual commissioning of fighter planes takes a long time. However, I would say that those who return to the war in Ukraine are better pilots than when they came, and have learned to operate a new fighter plane, says Bard Baki.

The Ukrainian pilots are highly motivated, but at the same time they are impatient to return to Ukraine to defend their country against Russian invaders.

Attack: A woman in Kharkiv looks back on the horrors of war after another Russian attack.  Photograph: Reuters/Vyacheslav Madeevsky/NTB.

Attack: A woman in Kharkiv looks back on the horrors of war after another Russian attack. Photo: Reuters/Vyacheslav Madeevsky/NTB.
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Rolf Volland recalls how, after a short training in 1940, Norwegian soldiers were sent to serve in the Royal Air Force in Great Britain.

– They had a completely different willingness to take risks and a completely different definition of what was trained well enough compared to what we have in peacetime in the West. This point of balance is one we are working to determine with the rest of the alliance, Volland says.

– An existential war

It reminds us of the seriousness of the situation in which Ukraine finds itself.

– Ukraine is in an existential war, and this is a completely different matter. It is very important for them to learn as much as possible – in the least amount of time. Volland says they knew they would go straight to war next.

The pilots undergoing training in Denmark are experienced pilots, but the F-16 has a different interface from the planes the Ukrainians have had in the past.

– Although flying different fighter planes has many similarities, you have to be able to read the instruments and understand situations instinctively because everything happens very quickly, says Lars Peder Haga.

Training: Ukrainian pilots receive training on F-16s from Norwegian forces in Denmark.  Photo: Henning Liljegaard/Dagbladet

Training: Ukrainian pilots receive training on F-16s from Norwegian forces in Denmark. Photo: Henning Liljegaard/Dagbladet
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According to Haga, the Ukrainian Air Force had not previously carried out very complex tactics with many aircraft groups, simply due to lack of capabilities.

– To take advantage of what you can do with the F-16, you need more than this basic course. He says this is a very necessary start so they can start flying, and start using aircraft systems to a greater extent depending on what weapons systems they have access to.

This is how the F-16 could be used in war

He believes it will take some time before they achieve full operational capability, and he does not imagine there will be direct battles between F-16s and Russian fighters in Ukrainian airspace any time soon.

The F-16 can be used for almost three things, but a lot depends on the weapons package it is intended for.

1: – They can very quickly protect Ukrainian airspace against cruise missiles and unidirectional attack drones as they have no long-range air defense today.

2: It can also have a positive impact against Russian fighter aircraft if it obtains modern air-to-air missiles. This would reduce the range advantage that the Russians have today. It's not certain that it would take it all, but it might push the Russians too far from the front and not be able to take advantage of the glide bombs they have today, Haga says.

3:- The last thing is that they can use it for air-to-ground attack against profitable ground targets such as ammunition depots and ground forces. He says it enables Ukrainians to reduce risks and strengthen them militarily.

In the past, Ukraine received long-range missiles, which forced Russian forces to withdraw weapons stocks and vital equipment from the front line.

ATACMS and other long-range weapons systems are well suited for attacking stationary targets, while the F-16 enables them to attack moving targets. It gives them power that they don't have to the same extent today,” says Lars Peder Haga.

The F-16s are believed to help offset the Russians' air superiority, but they won't make a huge difference overnight.

– It is an important beginning for Ukraine, and the F-16 is the right path for Ukraine. Haga says there is a lot of knowledge and a lot of F-16s in the West, and they are entering an important supply line compared to if they were to rely on Soviet aircraft.

He believes it is absolutely necessary, if they are to have a combat air force in the coming years, that they turn to Western aircraft.

At the air base in Denmark, this is a view also shared by the Air Force Commander.

– Politicians are the ones who provide the framework for what we will do, but we are determined that this will be a long-term training of Ukrainian pilots that will take place in several stages. I think this would be in our interest and in Ukraine's interest, Rolf Volan tells Dagbladet.

Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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