In news from Slovakia, the country’s defense ministry will soon be prepared to swat the Russian or Iranian hordes from the skies over Zelena Voda. Slovakia’s Prime Minister proudly announced the $1.8 billion-dollar purchase of U.S. made F – 16 Fighting Falcons to deter any Putin led aerial assault of his country.
When Slovakia Defense Minister Peter Gajdos signed the contract with Lockheed Martin in Bratislava the other day, I am sure his counterpart, Russia’s Sergey Shoygu must have raised his fists in rage over the daunting prospect of 1970s vintage airpower thwarting his plans for air superiority of vital Slovakia. I hope the reader will excuse my chagrin here, but NATO filling the skies with aircraft nicknamed after the TV show Battlestar Galactica is just funny. The U.S. Air Force having just ceased purchasing the aging airframe, this news bears the mark of some Donald Trump – General Dynamics – NATO “must pay” deal.
First, let me address the innate stupidity of the Slovak fighter deal from a technical standpoint. Bottom line, the F-16 is no match for the aircraft that lost out in this fighter deal. The Vipers in all their variants are inferior to the newer, more capable Swedish J-39E, which Slovakia had intended to gear up with. Here, you don’t have to take my word for it. When legendary F-16 pilot and SkunkWorks test pilot Nate “Buster” Jaros was cited by Fighter Sweep in August of 2016, he had given the “proven” combat capabilities of the Viper the nod. However, he added that the Swedish fighter getting the “kinks” out would prove and render the Saab jet superior. His exact words were:
“However, (as a former F-16 operator, this part pains me to say) that if the J-39E becomes a reality, and all the discussed items become real too, IT will be the clear winner. The lower RCS design, the IRSTS, and the higher thrust-to-weight ratio give the J-39E the edge for the top spot on the fourth-generation multi-role fighter podium. It will be one highly capable and extremely difficult unicorn to defeat by any capable adversary!”
The new variant, or Gripen E/F, is being touted as more capable and cheaper than the U.S. F-35 albatrosses, even if the latter does take off and fly eventually. But let’s get past man-stuff military hardware comparisons. I only wanted to show how NATO buggers all its member countries to put money in American arms manufacturer coffers.
If there is anything more ridiculous than tiny European countries building up puny militaries, the lack of any real threat makes a logical person wag his or her head. The notion of “Russia the aggressor” has been so overplayed since forever. I am guessing the last time the world’s biggest country attacked anybody without provocation was the invasion of Poland in 1939, but that was only a defensive effort to confront the Nazis. Some will argue Afghanistan too, but as we all know, this was America giving the U.S.S.R. her own “Vietnam.” The point being, Putin and the Russia leadership have nothing to gain taking over nations with spent out resources and only touristic value left. The Russians have more than they can deal with, land wise and infrastructure wise. Why on Earth would any Russian army march into Slovakia? Oh, I forgot Lake Bled and the therapeutic springs. Still, NATO needs cannon fodder, I guess?
Finally, if we insist on playing wargames over Eurasia as a mental pastime, then throwing 14 fighter planes into the path of sky blackening anti-aircraft missiles from Russia is first lunacy to consider. Even the loudmouth former head of U.S. European Command, retired U.S Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russia’s A2/AD capabilities are a huge cause for alarm. For those unfamiliar with the terms/strategies, Russia’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy is generally cast in terms of air defense bubbles using mobile assets, combined with overlapping zonal defense at tactical levels. With this capability in mind, a more recent comment from the general commanding U.S. air forces in Europe says one-third of Poland is covered by Russia’s integrated air defense system, and that NATO members in the east “likely sit within range of Russian anti-aircraft missiles.” I am imagining a preemptive assault followed by remaining Slovakian F-16s trying to fly through a wall of Russian flying metal. Sorry, more sarcasm needed.
For those who dream of U.S. and NATO invulnerability, this RAND-Military assessment of a real aggressive move by Russia against the European theater should be an eye-opener. And for those readers dreaming up Putin world domination themes, the fact he could have already re-conquered the former Soviet Union should be firmly implanted. As feeble as some Russian economics and infrastructure may be, whipping up on the paper lions of NATO should not be classified as undoable. All of my former shipmates and jarhead comrades out there know full well NATO is not made up of Rambos, Chuck Norris types, and Arnold Schwarzenegger-like Austrian allies. Factor in politically motivated sales of aerial dinosaurs like the F-16 and you’ve got a recipe for a really stupid military chef. Buy some time-tested World War II P-51 Mustangs to defend the indefensible, you’re assured of going down in history as idiots.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”