Ex-United States Commander Believes F-16 Workers Could be Legitimate Targets for Russia

In correspondence with Newsweek, a former United States Air Force commander declared that US or NATO personnel who work on F-16 fighter maintenance would turn into “legitimate military targets” for Russian strikes. In this case, Lt. Gen. Charlie “Tuna” Moore, the former deputy commander of the Cyber Command, was referring to F-16s being sent to Ukraine to stave off Russia’s ongoing military incursion. 

Moore stressed that countries sending F-16s to Ukraine would also need to deploy contractors or military personnel who have F-16 maintenance experience. 

The former commander observed that basic training could effectively deal with several facets of the fighter plane’s maintenance. However, Moore called attention to how the maintenance of the avionics and hydraulic systems are a different ball game altogether. Moore is currently a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University.

The US and several of its NATO allies have promised to assist with the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 platforms. Back in June, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that this training has already started. 

None of the NATO members have yet to agree to supply Ukraine with the fighter jets. Previously, the deployment of F-16s was viewed as a “red line” by several reluctant NATO states. It’s been long believed that supplying the F-16s would represent a long-term commitment by the Collective West to Ukraine’s air force. There are  also several problems that come with sending novel systems to the Ukrainian military.

For one, on the bases where F-16s will be operated in, Ukraine will likely need Western or NATO contractors, at least in the early stages, to preside over complex maintenance procedures, Moore observed.

If citizens from NATO member states, who are providing the jets to Ukraine, are needed to be present at bases, they could become “a very, very interesting target for Russia, and those locations would become legitimate military targets in accordance with the laws of armed conflict,” Moore stated.

Moore is likely on the mark here. For Russia, the Ukrainian conflict is an existential matter. So it views NATO and its allies in the Collective West as party to this conflict through their deployment of military aid to Ukraine. At some point, Russia will lash out against NATO nations in Ukraine and deal them a devastating blow. 

At some point, playing with fire will get one burned. 

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