Ukrainian officials have been lobbying the NATO and Biden administration for advanced fighter jets, such as F-16s ever since the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion, only to be refused multiple times.
Today, officials from the Biden administration stated that rather than providing complicated fighter jets that require extensive training, the US should focus on arming their soldiers with weapons that can be used without delay on the battlefield.
Translated that means: The U.S. is concerned that supplying F-16s to Ukraine could deeply anger Russia and bring the world closer to World War 3.
Ukraine’s air force is in bad shape. Most of it was destroyed by Russia during its initial attack phase while the ones remaining are too old to keep up with Russia’s more modern fighter jets with superior technology.
According to a Ukrainian military expert, the newest fighter jet Ukraine has was built in 1991 while some others are even twice as old as the pilots. As a result, they are at an extremely high risk of being shot down because they can’t compete with Russia’s modern anti-aircraft defenses. Moreover, they can’t compete with combating Russian fighter jets’ with radar that can see twice as far and can fire missiles twice as far. In fact, a Ukrainian pilot is unaware he’s being shot at until he’s told via radio a missile has been fired at him. And by then, the rocket is already so close that he has little time to react.
Also, because Ukraine isn’t a threat by air, Russia has learned at what distances they can safely set up shop. Hence, by setting up valuable command-and-control and logistics infrastructure just outside the reach of Ukrainian missiles, they can easily ‘hit and not be hit’ from those locations.
And of course, the obvious advantage Russia has is the ability to fly over Ukraine and shoot targets almost at will.
While the HIMAR surface-to-air missile systems given to Ukraine by the U.S. are being used to good effect, they’re not nearly enough to keep Russia from dominating the Ukrainian skies like bullies in a schoolyard.
The Ukrainian Air Force is asking for up to 200 fighter jets from the West and military analysts surmise the most realistic option is the NATO F-16 fighter jet as there are over 2,000 available. So, even if the U.S. continues to balk at the idea of it giving Ukraine fighter jets, they might be more comfortable with indirectly helping Ukraine through NATO.
France and Sweden have also discussed arming Ukraine with some of its jets.
Ukraine is already preparing its air bases to accommodate Western fighter jets as some of their pilots are in Britain learning to operate them. By the end of March, the pilots will be able to fly the aforementioned fighter jets but learning to use the advanced weapons systems will take more time.
Ukraine is hoping to have fighter jets no later than August but there are no guarantees as yet.
Air superiority is critical in modern militaristic operations and Russia has had it in Ukraine since Day 1.
Let’s rewind to 1991. In the Persian Gulf War, U.S.-led forces set the tone of the six-week incursion by achieving air superiority during the earliest hours–and even minutes–of combat as Iraq’s large-scale defense systems, for all intents and purposes, were paralyzed almost immediately.
Given how well Ukraine has performed against Russia after a year of fighting, imagine how much better they’d do if they gained some semblance of air comparability with Russia.