Sputnik asked Vladimir Popov, a former Air Force pilot and now editor-in-chief of the Aviapanorama journal to say a few words about the two planes’ strong and weak points, their modernization potential and ability to change the existing balance of forces in Europe.
MiG-29 – a Real Survivor
Vladimir Popov said that both the MiG-29 and the F-16 belong to the same class of light fighter jets with fairly similar tactical and technical characteristics.
The expert said that the Mig-29’s climb rate is 330 meters a second compared to the F-16’s 220-290. Moreover, the MiG can skim the ground at just 340 kilometers an hour (211 miles an hour), while its US counterpart may stall when flying under 390-420 kilometers an hour (242-260 miles an hour).
The MiG’s maximum high altitude speed is up to 2.3 Mach while that of the F-16 does not exceed 2 Mach.
F-16’s Fortes: Fuel, Ammo
The F-16 offers good cockpit visibility, is fuel efficient and can use a wide array of weapons, advanced onboard electronics and radar equipment.
Popov concluded by saying that both jets are highly serviceable, have a great potential for modernization and may eventually have their service life extended to 25 years and beyond.
$2.9 billion: Is It Very Much?
Popov believes that even though $2.9 billion for a squadron of 14 jets is a whole lot of money, this could also include the cost of retraining the first three or four pilots and their technical crews, and that switching to F-16s from flying Russian MiG-29s would hardly be a problem.
Economic or Political Gain?
“The general anti-Russian hysteria has certainly been a factor here,” Popov said, adding that “modernizing an existing fleet of modern aircraft is always easier, cheaper and, ultimately, more economically efficient for any country.”
“With the MiG-29 already at their disposal, the Slovaks could have found it easier to modernize them, rather than spend additional money on retraining pilots and technicians, overhauling command centers and airfields and buying additional aircraft-servicing vehicles,” Popov explained.
Vladimir Popov believes that the purchase of the F-16s by Slovakia will hardly change the existing balance of forces in Europe.
“The addition of 14 F-16s will have no practical consequence for NATO’s air power on the European theater,” Popov concluded.