U.S. and its allies plan to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, official says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on Washington to provide them, but President Joe Biden had so far refused the requests.

May 19, 2023

A U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon makes a fast pass at RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom on July 18, 2019.Rob Edgcumbe / Stocktrek Images via AP file

HIROSHIMA, Japan — America and its allies plan to provide F-16s to Ukraine — although the fighter jets may not necessarily come directly from the United States — as part of a long-term effort to strengthen the country’s security, a senior Biden administration official said Friday.

The timing for when Ukraine will receive the fighter jets — and which countries will provide them — remains unclear, but the official said the planes would not be used for Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive against Russia. In the coming months, the U.S. and its allies “will decide when to actually provide jets, how many we will provide, and who will provide them,” the official said. The news comes as President Joe Biden on Friday informed leaders of leading industrialized nations that the U.S. will support efforts to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s.

“Discussions about improving the Ukrainian air force reflect our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense,” the senior administration official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on the U.S. to provide F-16s, but Biden had so far refused the requests. In February, Biden said in an interview with ABC News that U.S. military advice showed that Ukraine did not need F-16s at the time.

“I’m ruling it out for now,” he had said about sending F-16s to Ukraine.

Officials from France and Poland had previously expressed openness to providing Ukraine with the advanced fighter jets. But any transfer of the American-made planes requires permission from the U.S. government.

News of the decision to provide Ukraine with F-16s comes as Biden attends a Group of Seven summit in Japan.

The U.S. and its allies’ joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on the jets could start in the coming weeks, the official said. The training “will take place outside Ukraine at sites in Europe and will require months to complete,” the official continued.

Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy official, previously told Congress that training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s could take “about 18 months.” Other U.S. defense officials have said the training could be shortened to only six to nine months based on pilots’ previous training and knowledge of fighter aircraft.

In his appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, Kahl said that it could cost up to $11 billion to revitalize Ukraine’s military with F-16 jets. G-7 leaders have not announced who would pay to provide Ukraine with the planes.

In March, NBC News reported that two Ukrainian pilots were in the U.S. undergoing an assessment to determine how long it could take to train them to fly attack aircraft, including F-16s. Washington had also approved bringing up to 10 more Ukrainian pilots to the U.S. for further assessment.

5 comments

  1. “The timing for when Ukraine will receive the fighter jets — and which countries will provide them — remains unclear, but the official said the planes would not be used for Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive against Russia.”

    Alas, the “strategy” for weapons/ammo deliveries to Ukraine by the allies has not changed since before the full-scale war even commenced, so too it is the same with one of the final chapters in this horror story, tactical aircraft. It’s very unfortunate that they will not arrive in time to do Ukraine much good for the upcoming offensive … very unfortunate.
    This raises a legitimate question; do the allies wish to see a Ukrainian victory???

  2. Imagine if the order had been given as soon as the full scale genocidal attack had commenced: 500 MBT’s, 50 HIMARS, 100 MLRS’s, Patriots, long range fires, modern jets, as well as all the armour, ammo, and military engineering equipment requested: training to commence immediately.
    How many lives would have been saved?
    Instead of that, the counteroffensive is going ahead anyway. No American commander would give the order without air superiority. But the defenders have to achieve something incredible just with what they’ve got.
    Also they know that a motherfucker who wants to give Ukrainian land away to a nazi bilge rat is waiting in the wings.

    • I think indeed more should have been sent at an earlier stage, in particular long range missiles and air defense.
      But I don’t think as much time was wasted as you suggest, because especially at the beginning the Ukrainian logistics did not have the capacity to absorb much more.

      There were and to some degree still are problems with providing food, shells and other goods at the right place at the right time.

      Therefore, Ukrainian soldiers are getting a high salary so they can buy some of their kit and food themselves.
      I don’t think for example there is a lack of HIMARS. 18 launchers do not sound like a lot, but I think Ukraine didn’t ask for more for a reason: they simply do not have the trucks to supply more and probably also mechanics to keep them working.

      Also, training pilots would have been nice, but Ukraine doesn’t have a lot of pilots and sending them to the U.S. means you can conduct fewer sorties with existing aircraft, which is a problem during a war.

      The same goes for air defense: those manning Patriots most likely came from S-300 or BUK, as it probably takes about 1-2 years to learn to operate a Patriot from scratch.

      You can send 20 at once, but then there is no one manning the S-300 which cannot be missed.

      I don’t think the hesitation of the West was because of the practical issues I described, I think it was mostly cowardness, but I also think it may have been near what Ukraine could absorb during the war.

      We are seeing that Ukrainians learn extremely fast, but I think this is also because for example within Patriots they were sending only those already experienced. If there were 20 Patriots most wouldn’t have had anti-air experience so it would have looked differently.

      I think most of the time and lives were wasted because the arms delivered during the war should have been delivered before 2022, not necessarily over the past year.

      • Bert, the problems you point out are all solvable. If the United States and Great Britain were able to pull through D-Day 70 years ago, what is giving Ukraine what it needs, quickly, and helping with logistics or anything else that it needs? In particular, seeing the incredible willpower they have, the courage and intelligence.
        As soon as it was clear that the Ukrainians will not surrender and even achieved some victories, the POTUS should have sat down with his large collection of experts and should have said, “Let’s help Ukraine win this war! I want to hear some ideas!”

    • The war would’ve been over months ago already, and we would be thinking, writing and talking about far more pleasant things.

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