Ukraine is not going to obtain F-16 fighter jets from its allies this 12 months as hoped, a spokesman for the nation’s Air Power mentioned late Wednesday, confirming that, as anticipated, the superior planes gained’t play a task within the present counteroffensive.
“It’s already apparent that we won’t be able to guard Ukraine with F-16 fighters this autumn and winter,” Yuriy Ihnat, the spokesman, instructed Ukrainian tv. “We had excessive hopes for this plane,” he added.
Right here’s what to find out about Ukraine’s longstanding requests for F-16s.
What’s the F-16?
First flown in 1976, the F-16 “Combating Falcon” is a supersonic fighter jet utilized by militaries in 25 countries for air-to-air fight and air-to-ground strikes. It’s constructed by the American protection contractor Lockheed Martin and producers in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.
The jet is widely considered to be versatile, light-weight and cost-effective — with a price ticket of up to $63 million, relying on the mannequin, in accordance with some estimates. There are roughly 3,000 in lively navy service worldwide, together with a whole bunch within the U.S. Air Power and Navy.
Why does Ukraine need the jets?
Ukraine has Soviet-era MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets, however has argued that F-16s might allow it to realize air superiority, one thing neither facet has decisively attained since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Ukraine has mentioned F-16s might beef up its air defenses, as frequent barrages of Russian missiles exhaust Kyiv’s ground-launched programs. They might additionally allow Kyiv’s forces to extra successfully fight Russian assault helicopters focusing on Ukrainian tanks and armored autos. With out the jets, additionally it is a lot more durable for Ukraine to implement the fight ways of NATO international locations whose forces have been coaching the nation’s navy.
Why hasn’t Ukraine obtained F-16s?
For months, President Volodymyr Zelensky and different senior Ukrainian officers had been calling for the USA and different international locations to supply Kyiv with F-16s. However the Biden administration, which should approve any transfers of the American-made planes, had resisted.
Following a push by Britain and the Netherlands, President Biden mentioned in Could that he would permit Ukrainian pilots to be educated on the jets, a sharp reversal that moved towards letting different international locations give the planes to Ukraine.
Nevertheless, American officers have mentioned that Ukraine has recognized solely eight fight pilots — lower than a single squadron — who communicate English nicely sufficient to begin a interval of coaching anticipated to final at the very least a 12 months. About 20 others are being despatched to Britain this month to be taught English.
“Ukrainian pilots will return from the coaching, and the planes will come again with them,” Ukraine’s overseas minister, Dmytro Kuleba, mentioned on Thursday. “Possibly they gained’t arrive proper within the cockpits, however it will likely be a synchronized course of,” he mentioned.
Can Ukraine’s counteroffensive achieve success with out the jets?
The counteroffensive Ukraine launched in June has but to realize a decisive breakthrough within the face of well-entrenched Russian defenses. And Ukrainian pilots is not going to be educated on the superior plane in time to help and defend the bottom forces waging the marketing campaign.
However officers in Ukraine, the USA and Europe, in addition to Western protection analysts, have mentioned in interviews that they consider Kyiv’s marketing campaign could still prevail with out the jets — although it’s prone to be way more troublesome.