Which jet is better for Ukraine F16 or MiG29 West

Which jet is better for Ukraine: F16 or MiG29? West considers sending planes to conflict with Russia

1 of 2 In this photo dated Sunday July 16, 2006 an Israeli F16 fighter jet takes off from an air base in northern Israel on a mission to Lebanon. — Photo: AP Photo/Ariel Shali An Israeli F16 fighter jet takes off from an air base in northern Israel for a mission in Lebanon in this Sunday, July 16, 2006 file photo. — Photo: AP Photo/Ariel Shali

In curves, the pressure of the body on the seat is gigantic. Only the most fit can handle it. In addition, it is necessary to wear special pants that allow blood circulation in the legs and prevent the pilot from losing consciousness. The flight rarely has a speed below 900 km/h.

“Acceleration is breathtaking.” This is how the former German Air Force pilot Joachim Vergin describes the feeling of flying a fighter jet. Maybe it’s comparable to a roller coaster ride but with twice as strong powers or even more.

It’s a complex challenge that also requires proficiency with a wide range of weapons. Fight, dodge, defend yourself. Problems are always a matter of life and death and often at the speed of sound.

Powerful engine and weapons

It is currently being discussed whether western Ukraine should deliver F16 or MiG29 jets or not. But which one would be the most appropriate?

Jet fighters were first used towards the end of World War II. With their engines, they flew much faster than the propeller aircraft used up to then.

A jet engine works like this: Air is drawn into the propeller and compressed. The fuel is then injected into the now highly compressed air and ignited.

This pushes the air out of the engine “extremely hard”, explains Robert Kluge, aviation expert at the Deutsches Museum in Bonn. This air then pushes against resistance, either the runway or the surrounding air, and accelerates the aircraft.

Fighters can attack targets both in the air and on the ground. For dogfights, they are equipped with airtoair missiles that can be launched in flight, destroying nearby targets. They use airtoground missiles or freefall bombs for ground targets, Leonhard Houben, a historian at the Military History Museum in BerlinGatow, told DW.

At the time of construction, aspects such as whether they will be used to fight other aircraft and whether they can fight back or whether they will be used to attack targets on the ground are taken into account. These strategic considerations are also important when using technology. Does the aircraft need to be light and fast for dogfights, or equipped with large fuel tanks for longer flights?

MiG: agile and light

The MiG29, one of the planes being considered for transport to Ukraine, went into service with a very clear objective: to protect the Warsaw Pact borders from NATO fighters. This allows this interceptor, which entered service in 1983, to take off and reach its target quickly.

Due to its design, the MiG29 is extremely maneuverable in air combat: it can even stay in the air vertically for short periods of time. However, its original version managed to carry little fuel to save weight.

F16: Multipurpose

Most modern hunters combine a variety of skills. According to Houben, it is more economical to build socalled multimission fighter jets because they can be manufactured in large numbers on a single production line.

The F16 is one such massproduced allrounder. It was developed in the US in the 1970s to be sold to partner countries as a lowcost, multirole jet. The F16 is currently the most widely used combat aircraft in the world. It is still made in the USA and is constantly being improved.

Houben says that “the F16s built 20 years ago are arguably on par with the Russian jets built three or five years ago.” One of the reasons is that the development of fighter jet technology in Russia stopped in the 1990s and many talents emigrated.

2 of 2 MiG29 fighter jets of Serbian army during military exercises in Batajnica, military airport near Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, April 30, 2022. — Photo: AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic MiG29 fighter jets of Serbian army during military exercises in Batajnica , military airport near Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, April 30, 2022. — Photo: AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

The Role of Weapons

In addition to technology, armament is crucial. Without them, an airplane is just “a shell, like a fire truck without a Magirus ladder,” compares Kluge. Like other experts, he is convinced that if the planes are delivered to Ukraine, they will be equipped with a modern weapons package, because only then will the Ukrainians be able to use these planes to protect their airspace.

Unlike antiaircraft missiles, which are launched from the ground, jet aircraft are highly mobile and can therefore protect larger areas and shoot down cruise missiles with airtoair missiles. However, Houben believes Hollywoodstyle dogfights between Russian and Ukrainian planes are unlikely, as modern planes attack each other at long range without close contact.

It’s a bit similar to war tanks: whoever shoots and hits first wins. Modern airtoair missiles sneak up on the target after launch and appear on radar just before impact. It is often too late to prevent the explosion. There’s usually little room for plot twists, machine gun fire, and things that usually happen in movies.

The training takes years

However, a fighter pilot must also be able to engage in close combat when all missiles are fired. That means: It has to be multitasking under extreme conditions. That’s why pilots don’t get off overnight: the training for the Eurofighter used in Germany lasts five to six years and costs 5 million euros per pilot.

Expilot Joachim Vergin had a big problem on the first flight: one of the engines failed. Although he was very scared, thanks to the exercises he was subjected to, he knew how to react, stayed calm and landed safely.

Often a pilot only learns to fly one type of fighter aircraft and the conversion to another takes a long time. Making the transition from Phantom to Tornado took Vergin seven months to prepare.

This is exactly where all the experts interviewed by DW see the greatest challenge for Ukrainian pilots. All the manuals, all the buttons on the NATO planes are in English and it’s not easy to manipulate them if you know Cyrillic. Also, numbers are expressed in feet and miles, while metric values ​​are used in the former Soviet Union.

Jet like a myth

In war, however, combatants are more than the sum of their technical skills. Robert Kluge describes the airplane as a “myth” because, unlike humans, it can also move up and down.

A fighter jet can be seen as a symbol that can boost troop morale. And your mere presence can make enemies think twice about daring to attack a land.