Ukraine will urge the West to transfer fourth-generation Western fighters like the US F-16, after being provided with main battle tanks.
“We have new tasks ahead of us, this time with Western-style fighters,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter on January 25.
“The next big target will be fighters,” Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told Reuters January 25th. “The fourth generation fighters are what we want, not just the F-16. If we have them, the advantage on the battlefield will be enormous.”
On the same day, President Volodymyz Zelensky also said that Ukraine needs more weapons, including long-range missiles and jets. “It’s a dream and it’s a mission.”
On January 26, Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko said Kiev needed Washington’s F-16s, after missile strikes across the country killed at least 11 people.
The F-16 multirole fighter, developed by General Dynamics in the 1970s, is used by the US and its allies. F-16 can reach a maximum speed of 2,121 km / h at an altitude of 12,000 m, a maximum ceiling of 18,000 m with a range of 546 km. F-16 is equipped with a 6-barrel 20mm cannon, 11 mounts that can carry 7.7 tons of weapons.
Kiev officials expressed their desire to own the fighter a few hours after many Western countries announced that they would transfer main tanks to Ukraine to deal with Russia.
US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said on January 26 that Washington would discuss the idea “very carefully” with Kiev and its allies. “We have not ruled out any particular system. We have tried to tailor military aid to each stage of the war,” he said.
US officials have said that the F-16 is a complex fighter that takes months to learn how to fly. The aircraft also requires major maintenance, often carried out by civilian contractors who may not be safe working in Ukraine.
Over the past year, the US and European countries have in turn “broken the fence” when providing many heavy weapons to Ukraine, but have not sent fighters due to the risk of escalating the war.
Ukraine’s air force has a fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets that shipped before Kiev declared independence more than three decades ago. These fighters are used for interception missions and attack Russian positions.
Justin Bronk, a military expert at RUSI, London, said the Ukrainian air force would benefit greatly from Western fighters, in terms of air-to-air capabilities and air-to-ground lethality. But he also cited the threat posed by Russia’s surface-to-air missiles, forcing the fighters to fly low near the front line, reducing “effective range significantly and limiting attack options”.
Duc Trung (Theo Reuters)