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EDF colonel: F-16's won't save the world but will change things in the war

The transfer of F-16 fighter jets to the Ukrainian Armed Forces will change the picture in the war, as it will triple Ukraine's enemy detection and fighting capabilities, said Col. Mart Vendla, deputy chief of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Headquarters, on ETV show " Ukrainian stuudio."

Members of the Ukrainian Defense Forces are already undergoing training on F-16 fighter jets. According to Col. Vendla, receiving these planes will greatly empower the Ukrainian Air Force.

"If you are expecting me to say that the F-16s will save the world, unfortunately I cannot say that. However, let it be said that the appearance of the F-16s will significantly change the picture. In the current situation, the MiG-29 and the Su-27, which Ukraine has, date back to the early 1980s, and so the arrival of the F-16s will significantly strengthen the Ukrainian Air Force," Col. Vendla said.

"Today, Ukraine's entire air defense essentially relies on the basis of ground-based missile systems, which prevent the Russians from reaching medium altitudes in Ukrainian airspace, from which they would be able to drop bombs from above with cheap munitions in a manner similar to in Homs, Syria. So, that is currently being held off by air defense missile systems and obviously Russia is doing everything it can to expend that inventory and those missiles in order to gain access," he explained.

"F-16s are game-changers in the sense that they can be used to fight air-to-air battles and support air-to-ground battles. So, in that sense, Ukraine's enemy detection and firing capabilities will essentially triple with them. But, of course, you're going to need a lot of them, and you're going to have design your strategy accordingly, because you don't just fight with a platform alone. It comes down to the specific context, the pilot inside and all the other supporting elements. So, it's a lot more complex than just saying that now the world is changing. Yes, it will change, but whether it will change permanently remains to be seen," he added.

Removal of Russian air defense systems from Kaliningrad is telling

British intelligence recently reported that Russia has removed air defense systems from Kaliningrad. According to Vendla, this is a telling sign.

"If we recall, Russia's basic narrative all along has been that it is surrounded by NATO and feels highly threatened. The refutation of this narrative actually began with the war in Ukraine, when Russia started to withdraw its troops. In fact, ground troops were withdrawn from our region quite a long time ago, but since the attrition of troops is quite high, basically all the ground troops have now been moved out of here," Vendla said.

"But with the sea and air, the 'chest' has been held. Now, the air defense systems have also been largely withdrawn. Of course, there are still some here, but the picture is very different. This means that, in fact, any claim that Russia feels threatened by NATO has no basis. We simply do not know how to use this, or we do not actually talk about it directly, and we allow this stupid narrative to run rampant in Europe. We should be much more vocal about this," the colonel said.

Defensive war ahead this winter

According to Vendla, when winter arrives, the war will become more about defense than attack.

"The ground has become soft and does not allow for maneuvers. It may be possible to do something with small units, but neither side can do anything major on this type of ground. Defense is, of course, part of the attack. So when you get to a new location, you build and reinforce your defenses," he said.

According to Vendla, we are likely to see more Ukrainian strategic attacks on Russia's interior over the winter. This week, for example, there was an explosion at the BAM railroad tunnel in Russia.

"Such deep strikes are practical in the sense that defensive measures there are significantly weaker than those near the front. It is possible to do a lot of damage there, and all at once. We've seen how the attack on the Kerch bridge caused logistics to be reassessed, and how the appearance of the HIMARS has forced Russia to extend its logistical chains. So, the attack on the BAM tunnel and the bypass bridge will certainly help, and  probably also limit the amount of ammunition and other support materials coming from Asia. I'm pretty sure we'll see more of these types of strategic attacks in the cold season," the colonel said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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