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“Deadliest” F-16 pilot offers solution to Ukraine’s jet problem.

Dan Hampton, call sign “Two Dogs,” known as “the deadliest F-16 pilot” and one of the most experienced US military pilots, has proposed a solution to quickly turn the airspace over Ukraine into a no-fly zone for Russians. In a recent interview with the Voice of America, Hampton suggested that Western private pilots be allowed to pilot F-16s in Ukraine, and he even offered to defend Ukrainian skies personally.

During the interview, Hampton discussed the capabilities of F-16 aircraft and the challenges facing Ukraine and Ukrainian pilots in terms of the possible provision of these aircraft. While acknowledging that the training would be time-consuming and require Ukraine’s best pilots to go to the West, he proposed another idea that would allow Ukraine’s skies to be protected quickly. “A possible short-term solution for the Ukrainian government is to hire private contractors who are already F-16 pilots,” suggested Hampton. Although he admitted that it’s a policy issue that needs to be organized by governments, he believes it is “very possible.” Furthermore, Hampton is willing to defend Ukraine’s skies with F-16s if this option becomes available to private Western pilots.

In Hampton’s opinion, such a decision would help Ukraine buy time and ultimately win the war. “When the war is over, you can focus on sending your pilots abroad,” he said. He emphasized that Ukraine needs experienced military pilots “right now,” and every pilot sent to Arizona for training is one less pilot who can make a difference in the fight at present. He suggested that Ukraine arrange for the purchase of F-16s, which are the most affordable and already in Europe. Among the European countries that have these American aircraft in service are the air forces of Poland, the Netherlands, some Scandinavian countries, and the United States itself.

Hampton also emphasized the importance of surface-to-air missile systems and modern anti-aircraft weapons for the urgent defense of Ukrainian airspace. He believes that this, combined with private contractors piloting F-16s, would turn the airspace over Ukraine into a no-fly zone for Russians. “No one has ever won a war from the air,” he reminded, “but you can lose a war if you don’t control the airspace.”

Modern fighter jets, long-range air defense crucial for Ukraine’s counteroffensive – Air Force

Hampton concluded by saying that “there is access to such pilots” and enough American and European pilots would be willing to fly F-16s in Ukraine as private contractors. “This is a completely feasible option,” he assured, and he hopes the people in power in Ukraine will consider it.

Other notable points in his interview

Russian Su-35s are “rubbish” Regarding the difference between the F-16 and Russian fighters, Hampton had critical comments on the Su-35. While acknowledging that it looks impressive with its beautifully painted exterior, he stated that it’s not really that good of an aircraft. In fact, he went as far as to call it “rubbish.” One of the main issues he pointed out is that it doesn’t have an AESA radar, considered an advanced electronic scanning radar 30 years ahead of the radar on the Su-35. He also mentioned that the Su-35 is a large aircraft with two smoke engines, making it an easy target for long-range missiles. According to him, the Su-35 is more suited for air shows than actual air combat.

Mentality matters When asked about the main challenge in training and air combat for Ukrainian pilots, Hampton emphasized the importance of mentality. Drawing on his experience of training foreign pilots, he stated that pilots from the Middle East often struggle to learn from their mistakes because they don’t think the way Western pilots do. In contrast, he felt that Ukrainian pilots would be more adaptable, especially when it comes to accepting criticism and learning from their mistakes. He mentioned an old saying in the US military that “whatever your military rank is, it is removed during the debriefing,” meaning that everyone, regardless of their rank, is expected to learn from their mistakes and take feedback constructively. Hampton suggested that Ukrainian pilots would fit into this mindset easily, unlike some Russian pilots he had trained with in the past.

The hardest thing about mastering an F-16 Finally, when asked about the most challenging technical aspects of F-16 training, Hampton emphasized the importance of mastering the weapon systems. While he felt confident that he could get a MiG-29 off the ground and back on it, he pointed out that controlling all the weapon systems on an F-16 is a different story altogether. He explained that the F-16’s weapons systems are connected to all the sensors, making it an incredibly complex aircraft to operate effectively. However, with the right training, F-16 pilots can become proficient in close air combat, dropping bombs, firing missile cannons, and even flying at night using infrared targeting systems. According to Hampton, it’s this level of capability that takes time and effort to master.

Who is “Two Dogs”

Daniel Hampton, known as “Two Dogs”, is a retired lieutenant colonel who served in the United States Air Force for 20 years from 1986 to 2006. Over the course of his military career, he flew 151 combat missions in F-16 aircraft and logged 726 combat hours. His service included participation in numerous wars, such as the Gulf War, Kosovo, and the Iraq War, during which he served as a member of the Wild Weasels unit, responsible for combatting enemy ground-based anti-aircraft missile systems.

Hampton is renowned for his effectiveness as a pilot in this unit, having been involved in the destruction of more than 20 anti-aircraft facilities. He was wounded twice during his service, once during a terrorist attack in 1996 in Saudi Arabia and again in Baghdad while working as a private contractor. He is also recognized for his heroic actions during a mission in Iraq, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. During this mission, he flew through an extremely low-altitude sandstorm to fire on an enemy armored column threatening a cut-off company of US Marines.

Beyond his military achievements, Hampton holds several higher education degrees, including a master’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and another from Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institution. He also has a distinguished career in pilot training, having earned his private pilot’s license and trained at the USN TopGun School, among other accomplishments.

After retiring from the Air Force, Hampton wrote several bestselling books about his experiences as a combat pilot, including an autobiographical memoir titled “Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat.” He was also the CEO of MVI International, a private military company based in Colorado, and trained F-16 pilots in the Middle East. Furthermore, Hampton served as an information exchange officer in the Egyptian Air Force. His decorated military career has earned him multiple accolades, including four Distinguished Flying Crosses, eight US Air Force Air Medals, and a Purple Heart.

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Modern fighter jets, long-range air defense crucial for Ukraine’s counteroffensive – Air Force

Modern fighter jets, long range air defense crucial for Ukraine’s counteroffensive – Air Force
An F-16 wing. File photo: Turkish Air Force 

For successful counter-offensive actions, Ukraine needs, among other things, modern long-range air defence systems and modern multi-role fighter jets, Colonel Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, explained during the national telethon.

According to Ihnat, the success of Ukraine’s counter-offensive operation, which is expected to commence in the spring, hinges upon stopping Russia’s attacks, and gaining air superiority with the help of modern powerful air defense systems and modern fighters that will ensure this air dominance in Ukraine’s occupied territory, and interrupting the logistics of supplying the enemy with fuel and ammunition. “Then the counter-offensive operation will be doomed to success,” he said.

While the future of western jets is still unclear, things have moved forward for Ukraine with Soviet-era jets, as earlier in the day Slovakia approved the sending of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Additionally, Poland’s President Duda has stated that his country will send Ukraine at least four MiG-29 fighter jets “within the next few days.”

While valuable, these airplanes will not give Ukraine an edge to fight off the Russian invasion, according to Ukraine’s air force.

“This will enhance our capabilities. The aircraft perform a number of functions: patrolling Ukraine’s airspace, fighter cover (covering attack groups of attack aircraft and bombers). MiG-29s also strike enemy air defenses with HARM anti-radar missiles and try to intercept both cruise missiles and Shahed kamikaze drones during massive missile attacks, ” said Colonel Ihnat.

“But I would like to note that the Soviet equipment we have in service, namely those MiGs, is not an effective weapon against [Russia’s] weapons of terror. Their obsolete missiles, radars, and aircraft radar cannot be very effective,” the spokesman stressed.

He once again reminded that in order to defeat the Russian aggressor, Ukraine needs, first and foremost, fourth-generation modern Western multi-role aircraft like the F-16.

Counteroffensive and jets

Preparing for the counteroffensive against Russian invaders that will tentatively commence in the spring, Ukraine has launched an Offensive Guard which has received 28,000 volunteer applications to join its assault brigades, as reported on 11 March. Ukraine needs at least 300 battle tanks to support large counteroffensive operations and other armored vehicles.

However, Ukraine’s call for modern fighter jets remains yet unaddressed, with western countries still discussing the option of sending them to Ukraine. Bipartisan pressure is growing in the US to send F-16 jets, Ukraine’s plane of choice. It was reported that the US is evaluating Ukrainian pilots in the United States to determine how long it would take to train them fly the F-16s. Meanwhile, Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, has calledfor the training of Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16s as well. However, while Poland is ready to train Ukrainian pilots on the F-16s, the decision needs approval “within a wider coalition.”

Finland’s Prime Minister Marin has implied that her country could consider supplying F/A-18 Hornet combat aircraft to Ukraine, considering they have already placed an order for 64 US-made 5th-generation F-35A jet fighters to replace their aging fleet of F/A-18 Hornets.

Meanwhile, ISW believes that Russia lacks the capability to support more than one simultaneous offensive, and this situation is favorable for Ukraine to launch a counteroffensive and push back the Russian forces.


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