By Micaela Burrow for Daily Caller News Foundation
- Ukraine will push for deliveries of Western-made 4th generation fighter jets next after winning a bid to secure Western tanks Wednesday, a top adviser for the defense minister told Reuters.
- Western fighter aircraft would improve Ukraine’s ability to strike Russian targets, experts said.
- “Before we send major weapon systems like F-16s, I hope we’d do the far easier thing,” Hudson Institute senior fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Ukraine’s next push will be for Western-made 4th generation fighter aircraft after securing at least three battalions of Western-made tanks, an adviser to Ukrainian defense minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Kyiv secured commitments of at least three battalions‘ worth of American and German tanks Wednesday after months of asking for the heavy battle equipment and fierce discussions among Western officials. Ukraine has advocated for deliveries of Western fighter jets as well as Soviet-era MiG-29s since the early months of the war, according to CNN, but it will step up efforts to bolster its aging Soviet fleet with newer western aircraft following the victory over tanks, Reuters reported.
“The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets,” Defense Ministry adviser Yuriy Sak told Reuters.
While the air war is muted relative to the fighting happening on the ground in Ukraine, Kyiv’s military does conduct airborne strikes on Russian positions and intercept Russian attacks, Reuters reported. Ukraine operates a decades-old fleet of Soviet era fighter jets, including the Su-24 and Su-25 attack aircraft and MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets, according to Business Insider.
“If we get them, the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense,” Sak told Reuters. “It’s not just F-16s: fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want.”
F-16s are American-made “multirole” fighter jets, and more than 3,000 aircraft are operating in 25 countries, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
U.S. fighters would be a “dramatic upgrade” to Ukrainian air capabilities and likely force the Russians back, Hudson Institute senior fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “16s are fantastic fighters. They’re fast, maneuverable and especially relative to the old Soviet ones the Ukrainians have [been] flying.”
“The Ukrainian Air Force would absolutely benefit greatly from Western fighters in terms of air-to-air and (potentially) air-to-ground lethality,” Justin Bronk, a senior researcher at Royal United Services Institute, wrote on social media. However, Western aircraft would remain vulnerable to Russia’s air defenses and would have to fire from low altitudes close to the front lines, capabilities for which they are not designed.
“They didn’t want to give us heavy artillery, then they did. They didn’t want to give us HIMARS systems, then they did. They didn’t want to give us tanks, now they’re giving us tanks,” Sak said to Reuters.
“Apart from nuclear weapons, there is nothing left that we will not get,” he added.
Russia slammed weapons deliveries to Ukraine that have become progressively more heavy-duty throughout the past 11 months of war. Russian ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov called the delivery of American tanks for Ukraine “another blatant provocation” and accused Washington of waging a proxy war with Moscow, according to state-run TASS news outlet.
Ukraine has also asked for long-range missiles, according to Reuters.
“Our military pilots went to the United States, funds were allocated for the training of our pilots,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat said, according to UkraNews, citing an information agency operated by Ukraine’s defense ministry.
“The type of aircraft, which is likely to be provided to Ukraine, and the corresponding terms of [personnel] training have already been determined,” he added.
The Pentagon said it was not aware of any Ukrainian pilots training in the U.S. on Tuesday.
“Before we send major weapon systems like F-16s, I hope we’d do the far easier thing like simply greenlight the Ukrainians to hit the Iranian terrorists training the Russians on their suicide drones inside the Russian border… We aren’t even doing the easier things,” Heinrichs told the DCNF.
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
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