“I don’t think we are opposed to the F-16s,” a senior DoD official said about a sensitive subject while speaking anonymously.
The possibility of sending long-range missiles and military planes has been discussed in “fast-track” negotiations between Ukraine and its Western allies, according to a senior Ukrainian official on Saturday.
Incoming missiles and drones can be shot down by air-to-air missiles carried by F-16s.
According to a Ukrainian official and one of those familiar, Ukraine is pressuring the US to begin training its fighter pilots on the F-16s as soon as possible, before President Joe Biden approves sending the jets.
The co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), declared he is “not against” sending F-16s to Kyiv but is generally in favour of giving Ukraine “whatever works.
There is renewed hope in Kyiv that American jets could be the next step. This is partly because tanks and Patriot air defense systems that had been banned from going to Ukraine were quickly approved.
“I don’t think we are opposed to the F-16s,” a senior DoD official said about a sensitive subject while speaking anonymously. The fact that no decision has been made in stone was emphasized.
The insider stressed that while the Pentagon is focused on getting Kyiv the things it needs for the current war, Ukraine has not yet said that fighter jets are its top priority.
However, fighter jets might overtake them soon. Recently, Kyiv asked again for modern fighter planes, and a top adviser to the defense minister told the media that officials would look for planes in the United States and Europe.
A top Ukrainian official said on Saturday that the possibility of sending long-range missiles and military planes has been talked about in “fast-track” talks between Ukraine and its Western allies.
One adviser to the Ukrainian government said that the issue had been brought up with Washington but that “nothing too important” had been talked about so far. Another individual with knowledge of the discussions between Washington and Kyiv said it might take “weeks” for the United States to decide whether to provide its aircraft and whether to permit the re-export of F-16s from other nations.
“The advantages on the battlefield will be incredibly huge if we get them.” “We want fourth-generation aircraft, not just F-16s,” said Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Oleksii Reznikov, the defense minister, to Reuters.
A White House representative didn’t want to say anything for this article, but they pointed to what Jon Finer, the deputy national security adviser, had said. He said Washington would be “cautious” in talks with Kyiv and its allies about fighter jets.
Finer stated on MSNBC on Thursday that “we have not ruled in or out any specific systems.”
Ukraine wants to replace its fleet of Soviet-era jets with modern fighters, such as F-16 or F-15 aircraft from the US Air Force or their European equivalents, the German Tornado or Swedish Gripen. When countries like Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands switch to American F-35 fighters over the course of the next year, dozens of the more modern planes will become available.
The integrated air defenses of Kyiv have prevented Russia from dominating its skies since the invasion on February 24, despite the age of Ukraine’s jets.
However, officials are increasingly worried that Ukraine could soon run out of missiles to defend its airspace. The DoD officer who took part in the talks said that once all of Ukraine’s weapons are used up, Russia’s cutting-edge fighter jets will be able to move in, and Ukraine “won’t be able to compete.”
According to a group of military leaders at the Pentagon and abroad, modern fighter jets could be one solution to this issue. Incoming missiles and drones can be shot down by air-to-air missiles carried by F-16s. Unlike the Patriots and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems that the West sends, fighter jets can move quickly through an area to defend different targets.
The official from the Department of Defense said, “Now it’s a tie if they get [F-16] Vipers and have an active air-to-air missile with the radar the F-16 has now and some electronic protection.”
Even if the United States chose not to send its Air Force’s F-16s, other Western countries have fighters built in the United States that they could contribute. For example, Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra told the Dutch parliament last week that if Kyiv requested it, his cabinet would consider sending F-16s. But the move needs American approval.
Senior Pentagon officials agree that Ukraine will eventually need new planes. However, because jets may take months to arrive, some contend that Ukraine has a greater need for more conventional air defenses, such as the Patriots and NASAMs that the US and other nations are providing.
The senior DoD source stated that sending Ukraine F-16s “does not solve the cruise missile or drone situation right now.”
Large-scale training push
Some claim that there is a greater need for fighter jets. According to a DoD source, a Ukrainian official, three other persons aware of the talks, and up to 50 pilots on a list who are prepared to begin training on the F-16 The sources say that these skilled pilots, who have flown hundreds of combat missions and speak English, could be trained in as little as three months.
Several of them took part in big training exercises with the American military before the invasion. American and Ukrainian military drills were conducted over Ukraine in 2011 and 2018. In order to prepare for the 2012 Euro Cup, the Americans sent over their F-16s in 2011 and taught the Ukrainian pilots flying MiG-29s and Su-27s how to secure a stadium.
The United States and Ukraine launched a second joint exercise in 2018 to teach Ukrainian pilots homeland defense strategies and airspace management following Russia’s illegitimate annexation of Crimea in 2014. The American pilots imitated Russian fighter tactics with their F-15s.
According to a Ukrainian official and one of those familiar with the situation, Ukraine is pressuring the US to begin training its fighter pilots on the F-16s as soon as possible, before President Joe Biden approves sending the jets. However, according to American authorities, there is no interest in the Pentagon. One idea being talked about at lower levels is to start teaching Ukrainian pilots basic fighter skills on trainer jets.
According to one of the people with knowledge of the situation, Ukraine has also thought about signing contracts with American private companies to start training pilots.
Without a presidential decision to provide American fighters, it’s likely that U.S. military training would not begin. The Biden administration has been worried for a long time that using more advanced weapons could be seen as an escalation by Russia, which could lead Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons.
Officials draw attention to the fact that the F-16 was created in the 1980s and that the Air Force is already retiring some of its fleet. They said that sending stealth fighters like the F-22 or F-35 to Ukraine would be seen as a step up, but sending F-16s would not.
A DoD official declared that a nuclear conflict wouldn’t erupt over F-16s.
According to one European official, F-16s “cannot be called escalators.”
The individual said it is merely a tool in the arsenal of conventional weaponry.
F-16s, on the other hand, are complex systems that need a large infrastructure and highly trained experts to run and maintain. The United States could need to hire outside contractors to help with part of the maintenance training because it would probably take longer than teaching Ukrainian pilots.
On Capitol Hill, both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the administration for not acting quickly enough or for withholding certain capabilities, like artillery with a longer range. Giving F-16s is likely to get some support from both sides. A plan was made to send Russian-made MiG planes to Ukraine through countries in Eastern Europe that still use them, but the arms swap never happened.
The co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), declared he is “not against” sending F-16s to Kyiv but is generally in favor of giving Ukraine “whatever works.”
“A war can’t be half-assed.” Putin doesn’t. Because of the current massive troop deficit, you must match Putin’s weapons for weapons and his armor for armor, according to Quigley. “Send them anything they need, whatever works.
When I first began discussing this, he stated, “My message was that what were once vices are now habits.” Every proposal we ever made was viewed as an escalator.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, questioned the need to send F-16 fighter jets into combat where fighter jets haven’t proven to be effective.
Smith declared, “I’m not opposed to it.” It’s just not at the top of anyone’s list of priorities when they’re concentrating on what [weapons] the war actually needs at this time.
He said that the F-16s would be weak against Russian air defenses and fifth-generation fighters, just like the older MiG jets that were talked about last year. Smith, on the other hand, stressed how important it was to have enough ammunition for long-range missiles, tanks, and armored vehicles.
“Air defence is the main area on which we should concentrate,” he stated. “And artillery is number two.”