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 Pressure stated late Wednesday, confirming that, as anticipated, the superior planes received’t play a job within the present counteroffensive.
“It’s already apparent that we will be unable to guard Ukraine with F-16 fighters this autumn and winter,” Yuriy Ihnat, the spokesman, informed 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 keeping with some estimates. There are roughly 3,000 in energetic army service worldwide, together with a whole bunch within the U.S. Air Pressure 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 stated F-16s might beef up its air defenses, as frequent barrages of Russian missiles exhaust Kyiv’s ground-launched techniques. 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, it’s also a lot more durable for Ukraine to implement the fight ways of NATO international locations whose forces have been coaching the nation’s army.
Why hasn’t Ukraine acquired F-16s?
For months, President Volodymyr Zelensky and different senior Ukrainian officers had been calling for the US and different international locations to offer 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 stated in Might that he would permit Ukrainian pilots to be skilled on the jets, a sharp reversal that moved towards letting different international locations give the planes to Ukraine.
Nevertheless, American officers have stated that Ukraine has recognized solely eight fight pilots — lower than a single squadron — who communicate English nicely sufficient to start out 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, stated on Thursday. “Perhaps they received’t arrive proper within the cockpits, however it will likely be a synchronized course of,” he stated.
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 skilled on the superior plane in time to help and shield the bottom forces waging the marketing campaign.
However officers in Ukraine, the US and Europe, in addition to Western protection analysts, have stated in interviews that they imagine Kyiv’s marketing campaign could still prevail with out the jets — although it’s prone to be far more tough.