Sounds of explosions echoed in the dark sky as Ukrainian air defenses repulsed a Russian attack on this little western Ukrainian city that is home to a major air base and is often targeted by Moscow’s missiles.

The neat streets of Starokostiantyniv had reverted to something approaching normalcy just hours after the attack.

The assault on June 27, however, served as a sobering reminder of the difficulties Kyiv will have as it attempts to reassemble its diminished air force and sends out the first F-16s, fighter aircraft built in the United States that Russia is certain to shoot down or destroy.

The initial aircraft are scheduled to arrive this month, and Ukraine expects that they will reinforce soldiers fighting a Russian assault along the front line, which includes deadly glide bombs that F-16s might be able to derail.

The location of the F-16s’ base is unknown, but Moscow declared during last Thursday’s attack on Starokostiantyniv that it had targeted airfields it thought would be home to the aircraft.

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February 2022, the air base has been repeatedly attacked, notably by drones and hypersonic missiles.

The 30,000 or so residents of this old military outpost in the Khmelnytskyi area of Ukraine, known as Starkon, have grown accustomed to the ongoing threat.

Speaking with a wry smirk, local cultural expert and municipal official Vasyl Muliar stated, “In short, it’s ‘fun’ to live here,” following the most recent attack.

According to a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force, the attacks created “certain difficulties,” but they wouldn’t prevent the F-16s from being delivered or used in combat.

At the Myrhorod airport in the Poltava area, Russia’s defense ministry said separately on Tuesday that it had shot down five Ukrainian SU-27 fighter planes. Ukraine says the assertion was made in error.

Military analysts speculated that in order to make it harder for F-16s to take off and, once they do, for the Western planes themselves, the Russians were likely targeting air base infrastructure including runways and storage facilities.

The valuable aircraft may also need to be moved across airfields by the underequipped Ukrainian military, according to Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute.

“Any ground-based air defence coverage can be saturated if the Russians care enough to fire enough missiles at one target,” he stated.


Governor Serhiy Tyurin said that nine targets over his district had been destroyed by air defenses during the strike on Thursday. The air force had alerted the locals a little while earlier that drones were approaching Starokostiantyniv.

Residents of the area talked of living in constant fear of being hit and hearing the constant boom of Ukrainian jets in the sky above, being cautious not to reveal anything that would be viewed as critical military intelligence.

The principal editor of the neighborhood newspaper Our City, Iryna Sapchuk, reported that a prior raid had damaged the roof and shed of her parents’ house.

“They found debris from a missile in a cherry tree by the window,” she said.

People were ready to portray a sense of resilience despite the threat of war and the inconvenience of regular power outages brought on by Russian strikes on the energy grid, as they did in many other towns and cities across Ukraine.

As the aircraft flew overhead, road construction went on, and teens and families went to the nearby beach to cool down.

According to Sapchuk, she finds it difficult to travel across Ukraine without the sound of airplanes.

She chuckled, “It’s too quiet for me,” adding that the sound has come to symbolize the valiant efforts of Ukraine’s outnumbered pilots.

The city’s history as a defensive stronghold in the sixteenth century and as a vital hub for the independence movement of the newly formed Ukrainian People’s Republic following World War I was cited by Muliar, the local official.

“This was always a centre of resistance.”