Six US F-16 fighter jets and a pair of KC-135 Stratotankers have arrived in the Czech Republic for participation in NATO’s Sky Avenger 2018 binational military exercise kicking off today.
Czech Air Force assets involve JAS-39 Gripen and L-159 ALCA fighter jets and Russian-made Mi-24 and Mi-171 helicopters.
A similar drill was last held in Czech Republic back in 2009.
When asked by Sputnik, why it took NATO so long to do it again, military expert Viktor Litovkin said that this could be because President Milos Zeman is not very enthusiastic about NATO holding drills in his country.
“All the Czechs need to know is that the US F-16s can, among other things, carry nuclear bombs. There are about 200 US B61 nuclear bombs currently deployed in Europe,” Litovkin said.
Even though the US magazine National Interest recently put the F-16 on its list of the five worst fighter planes in US history, calling it a “tin can,”
“No way! The F-16 is anything but a tin can! It may not be new but it’s still a very decent single-engine supersonic aircraft with good onboard electronics and an ability to carry nuclear weapons,” the expert noted.
“I don’t think the Americans are going to pension them off even though they are now going for the fifth-generation F-35s and F-22s,” he added.
When asked if the F-16 is able to shoot down a similar class Russian counterpart, Litovkin said that it can hardly hold its own against Russia’s twin-engine Su-30 and Su-35s.
“Our similar-class fighters are more maneuverable and better armed too. The Su-35 is way better than the F-16 and in terms of maneuverability, power-to-weight ratio and onboard electronics it can be compared only with the US F-35.
This year’s Sky Avenger drill will reportedly practice elements of a dogfight involving the F-16 fighter bomber, one of which was used in last year’s tests of a B-61-12 dud.
Mentioning the possibility of a similar test that could be carried out during the ongoing drill in the Czech Republic, Litovkin said that even though no such bombs will be used during Sky Avenger 2018, electronically simulated launches against ground targets could be possible.
“No one was forcing the Czech Republic to join NATO; it was one of the first [former Warsaw Pact countries] to join the alliance in 1999. Vaclav Pavel, a Czech general, heads NATO’s Military Committee, he is the first representative of an East European country to hold such a position and he is doing his job 100 percent looking for an imaginary “Russian threat” everywhere, Litovkin concluded.
NATO has been boosting its military presence in Europe, especially in Eastern Europe, since 2014, using Russia's alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis as a pretext. Moscow has refuted these allegations and warned that such a policy undermines stability in the region.