Ukraine - F-16 Multi-Role Combat [BCV] aircraft
The United States will transfer F-16 fighters to Ukraine. This is not a question of whether, but of how many and when. Prior to the 2022 Russian invasion, Ukraine was seeking Western fighter to replace its aging stock of Soviet aircraft. The F-16 was on their shopping list. Following Ukraine's victory over Putin's 2022 invasion, the country will require a large number of modern fighters to dissuade Russia from future aggression.
The Ukrainian obsession with the F-16 is due in no small measure to the fact that it is the only Western fighter that can be made available in large numbers in a relatively short timeframe. Other fighters currently in production could not be delivered in large numbers until the 2030 timeframe. While other models [eg, the Swedish Gripen] may be better suited to Ukraine's requirements, the best in the enemy of the good enough.
The "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, is home to almost half of the F-16s ever built - around 2.000 out of 4.500. Most [but not all] of the F-16s in storage use mechanically scanned array radars, which are susceptible to jamming and which the Soviet tactical combat fleet began to move away from as early as 1981. They also lack high off boresight targeting capabilities provided by the new AIM-9X air to air missile and helmet mounted sights. Significant investments of time and money could be needed to modernize these old airframes to the F-16V standard with up to date avionics and weaponry, but even without these modifications the stored F-16s would provide a robust air-to-ground capability.
The US had ruled out sending F-16 jets to Ukraine, since U.S. officials had estimated the most expeditious time needed for pilot training at 18 months. The Baseline Pilot Assessment (BPA) the US Air Force conducted involved a pair of experienced Ukrainian fliers. Conducted from 27 February to 10 March 2023, the BPA concluded that, "given the skillset demonstrated by the UKR AF pilots, and the requirement to develop a specialized syllabus only focused on min required tasks, ~4 months is a realistic training timeline."
“We believed that our pilots would show their [skill] level, and it really happened. Two pilots successfully passed the test in the United States,” said Yurii Ihnat, a spokesman for the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, reported Ukrainska Pravda. “The assessment given was quite high, and at the end of the report [it is indicated.] that a retraining program for Ukrainian pilots to master F-16 jets could be significantly reduced compared to standard pilot training programs,” Ihnat said.
The gradual and incremental escalation of the War in Vietnam was a direct result of the inability of the US to make a firm commitment during the early stages of the conflict. An early and strong commitment of US forces could have forced Hanoi to accept the South Vietnamese Government and the partitioning of the country. ROLLING THUNDER is an example of piecemeal application of military power in an attempt to take some form of retaliatory action, but yet not appear overly aggressive to the Soviets or Chinese. The U.S. committed forces to the conflict in a piecemeal manner. This played a significant role in the eventual military and political losses that contributed to the strategic failure.
Faced with uncertainty and under the pressure of competing domestic and foreign demands, President Johnson and his civilian and military advisers made Vietnam policy incrementally; at each stage they decided only what they had to decide at that moment. ” George Herring, a leading Vietnam war historian, summarized: "Johnson did not provide clear strategic direction to his military leaders. On the other hand, [the military leaders] did not (or could not) make clear to him the full depth of their own objections to the way the war was being fought. No one was really satisfied with the strategy, but there was little discussion of the major issues, no airing of the differences. The result by 1967 was a makeshift strategy that was doomed to failure and enormous frustration on all sides…."
The United States had become self-deterred in its international actions since the end of the Cold War. Security interactions take on the air of a poker game--the deterrer has raised the stakes and the deteree must decide whether the adversary has a good hand or is merely bluffing. Dangers were deemed too great and the stakes too low to justify U.S. military involvement in troubled areas.
Walking back on his earlier statements, US President Joe Biden on 19 May 2023 informed his G7 allies that Washington DC will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation aircraft, including F-16s. The training is expected to commence in the coming weeks; however, it will take place in European countries. US military personnel will also take part in the training.
Biden had earlier said that he didn’t think Ukraine needed F-16 fighter jets. The decision to form a joint training programme was made very quickly by Joe Biden after consultations with America’s European partners. Whether or not to give F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine was a major issue on the G7 meeting agenda. This came after UK PM Rishi Sunak called on European nations having F-16s in their stockpile to send them to Ukraine to help defend the nation against a Russian offensive.
A US official was quoted by CNN as saying that the training will take months to complete. “As the training takes place over the coming months, our coalition of countries participating in this effort will decide when to actually provide jets, how many we will provide, and who will provide them,” the official said.
The official added that “to date, the United States and our allies and partners have focused on providing Ukraine with the vast majority of the systems, weapons, and training it requires to conduct offensive operations this spring and summer. Discussions about improving the Ukrainian Air Force reflect our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense.”
Biden administration also signalled to European allies that the US would soon allow them to send their F-16s to Ukraine. Some nations have agreed to help Ukraine; however, they will have to first take approval from the US as its sensitive technology is involved.
Britain and the Netherlands agreed 16 May 2023 to form an international coalition to purchase F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine, the BBC reports , citing a statement by the British government. This decision was made by the prime ministers of the countries, emphasizing that they would give Ukraine all possible support. "The Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak - ed) and Prime Minister Rutte have agreed that they will work to create an international coalition to provide Ukraine with air combat capabilities, providing support in everything from training (Ukrainian pilots - ed) to the purchase of F- 16," the statement said.
Kyiv expects to receive 40 to 50 F-16 fighters from Western countries. This was reported on 16 May 2023 by the publication Politico, citing Yuriy Sak, adviser to the Minister of Defense of Ukraine. According to him, Kyiv intends to form three or four squadrons of these fighters to protect the sky. Now Ukraine has "nothing to stop" Russian planes, he argued.
"Everyone understands that the topic is ripe for discussion. Nobody says it's impossible. Compared to three months ago, when we were still trying to get tanks, today everyone is talking about a coalition of fighters - this is a very promising sign. We We understand that our air defense will not be complete without F-16 fighters," Sak told the publication. Sak added that while the UK, Italy, France and Germany do not have F-16s to offer Kyiv, they can call on the US and Turkey to do so.
Ukraine needs about 200 fighter jets to protect the sky, according to Yuriy Ignat, the spokesman of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It is important that they must be multi-purpose, and the morally and physically outdated Soviet-type aircraft that we currently have in service must be replaced.
The spokesman noted that Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe, so it needs the protection of the sky not only in wartime, but also in peacetime. "At present, the aviation group of the Russian Federation exceeds the number of combat vehicles in the Ukrainian aviation by 5-6 times. For example, at the moment we have 11 brigades: one training brigade, three transport brigades, one assault brigade, one bomber brigade and five fighter brigades. And the newest aircraft in the Armed Forces - the Su-27, entered service in 1991.
"Plus, we are inferior in technology. Therefore, the need is serious. It is necessary to create up to 5 tactical aviation brigades with one type of Western-style multi-purpose aircraft. What type it will be, is currently being determined..., - notes Ignat. "It is clear that we will not be able to get all at once, but a phased transition to a new multi-purpose aircraft is a requirement of time.
"Further - the formation of aviation brigades - up to five, each of them can include up to 3 squadrons. A country like Ukraine, one of the largest in Europe, needs exactly this number of aircraft, and this will already be a complete rearmament and replacement of old Soviet equipment ", Ignat noted.
Ignat said that as part of assistance with fighter jets, Ukraine is initially expecting the delivery of 24 Western-style aircraft. These are two battalions of combat aircraft, each of which will consist of 12 units. "Currently, the most likely candidate for replacing the old Soviet aircraft is the F-16 , because there are certain objective reasons for this. And this is not a one-man decision, there are ongoing consultations with partners." It should be understood that Ukraine will not be able to immediately count on these aircraft on the battlefield. Ignat notes that "our pilots and ground crews need at least six months of training".
Ignat explained that "This fighter has a wide range of means of attack: it can strike both ground targets (ammunition and fuel and lubricant warehouses, fortifications, enemy armored vehicles), and hit all types of aerodynamic targets (missiles, airplanes, helicopters and drones kamikaze). When Ukraine gains superiority in the air, he continued, it will be able to more successfully conduct ground operations, for example, to de-occupy our territories."
Poland is ready to transfer its F-16 fighters to Ukraine in "full coordination" with NATO countries, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said. President Joe Biden said 30 January 2023 that the U.S. won't be providing F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, appearing to reject a key request from the country as it fends off Russian aggression.
Ukrainian Defense Express reprted that Ukraine will need 180 F-16 fighters to "close the sky". Five brigades will be formed. Each will have three squadrons of 12 aircraft. The cost of such a quantity of equipment of the modern version of F-16 Block 70/72 can cost $ 29.25 billion. The spokesman for the Air Force Command, Yuriy Ihnat, said that reliable protection requires "at least 5 brigades, with three squadrons in each: this would be the number of aircraft that would be able to protect the airspace together with the air defense systems of such a huge country as Ukraine".
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on NATO countries 25 January 2023 to "unlock" the supply of long-range missiles and military aircraft to Kiev. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby indicated such a delivery was not presently in the works.
Yuriy Sak, the adviser to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, expressed his confidence in a phone conversation with Reuters that the West would eventually send F-16s and other military aircraft to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian authorities will convince the NATO member countries to hand over Western-made fighter jets to them after obtaining an agreement on the supply of tanks to Kyiv. Yuriy Sak, adviser to the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, stated this in an interview with Reuters January 25, 2023.
"The next big hurdle will be fighter jets," he said. "If we get them, the advantage on the battlefield will be huge <...>, and it's not just about the F-16: we need fourth-generation aircraft... At first they didn't want to give us heavy artillery - then they gave us. Then they didn't want to give HIMARS systems - now they gave us. They didn't want to give us tanks, now they give us tanks. With the exception of nuclear weapons, we can get anything," Sak added.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said on 25 January 2023 that the European Union was preparing to supply Kiev with F-16 Falcon fighter jets made in the United States. The jets are just the latest advanced weapon NATO has given to Ukraine to use against Russian forces, including main battle tanks and other armored vehicles. Kuleba claimed on his Facebook* page what he said was an exchange with an unnamed “European colleague,” who told him they were “working on it” when he asked about when Ukraine was getting F-16s. Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra told the country’s parliament that the government would take a request for F-16s from Ukraine with “an open mind.” However, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said the issue is out of the question for the moment.
There are around 20 times as many F-16s in the world than Gripen, and used F-16s that can be supplied in 3-6 months are a much better short-term answer for Ukraine. The US has about 700 F16s in storage at Monthan AFB in Arizona. There are not a lot of excess Gripens that can go to Ukraine it would take many years before they finally started getting squadrons put together. Ukraine could receive significant numbers of f-16s long before they could receive a similar number of Gripens. And from a logistical standpoint, that means that much greater availability of spare parts. Not to mention training, add-ons, enhancements and so forth.
In June 2021 Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, offered Ukraine a new F-16 Block 70/72 multirole combat aircraft as it looks to modernize its air force. Ukraine wanted to buy new or used fighter jets to replace the fleet of aging Soviet-made aircraft. Ukrainian Air Force currently has a fleet of Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker interceptors and MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft.
According to Lockheed Martin, the company can provide Ukraine with new fighters or modernize secondhand combat aircraft. As noted by the company, the F-16 is the world’s most successful, combat-proven 4th generation fighter. To date, 4,588 F-16s have been produced and there are approximately 3,000 operational F-16s are in service today in 25 countries.
In concert with the U.S. Air Force and multiple F-16 Foreign Military Sales customers, Lockheed Martin has certified more than 3,300 carriage and release configurations for greater that 180 weapon and store types. The company’s experience as a weapon integrator has enabled the F-16 to be one of the most versatile multirole fighters ever.
The five nations have chosen the newest F-16 Block 70/72 version for these reasons and more. Block 70/72 F-16 production began in Greenville, South Carolina, on Nov. 11, 2019. The Greenville production start coincides with the significant, growing demand for new production F-16s around the globe.
New-production F-16s include advanced capabilities, such as the APG-83 AESA Rradar, modernized cockpit with new safety features, advanced weapons, conformal fuel tanks, an improved performance engine, and an industry-leading extended structural service life of 12,000 hours. But most importantly, new F-16s also include the proven, life-saving Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS), which ensures pilots come home safe. The company also offers a package of modernization of secondhand fighters, in order to bring their combat capabilities to Block 70/72 configuration.
Ukraine wants the help to be able to defend itself. Based on public reporting, neither the Ukrainians nor the Russians have established air superiority. The US and NATO allies can help Ukraine change the situation in the air domain and give Ukrainian forces a decisive advantage in the war.
The defense of freedom in Eastern Europe is at stake here, but so is, really, the stability of all of Europe. What happens in Ukraine does affect the cause of freedom more broadly. Ukraine is just the first step and wants to recreate the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union. China is eyeing a potential military assault on Taiwan. Israel continues to face threats from Iran and others in the Middle East.
Eventually, the Royal Air Force defeated Hitler's onslaught against innocent civilians in what is called the Battle of Britain and ensured that the country would survive the war. Today, just as then, there is another indiscriminate bombing campaign going on, this time in Ukraine against civilians and civilian infrastructure. Ukraine is now fighting its own Battle of Britain.
There are about 50 countries helping Ukraine on the military side. Ukraine and NATO officially signed a joint declaration for defense cooperation in September 2015. Ukraine planned to increase its military budget by approximately 30 percent with a focus on air defense. Ukraine needed to focus on rebuilding from various crises and recent conflicts, in which it lost half of its fighter jets.
All the free world is stepping up to help, but America leads, and needs to provide Ukraine with more of the weapons that Ukraine says they actually need, like the Patriot missiles. But, also, they have asked for fourth-generation fighter jets, like the F-16 or similar European models. They are in Europe already. The US provided them to European countries, but the US has to sign off for the European countries or other countries to provide them to Ukraine. Ukraine needs better aircraft to be able to clear its skies of these Russian missiles and the Russian drones, many of which are now being procured from Iran. And if Russian missiles are now striking NATO territory, then it is clearly in NATO's interest to provide these aircraft to Ukraine. The planes don't have to come from the United States. They may well come from other allies. But the F-16s or F-15s that would be especially useful in this situation would probably have to be approved by the United States before any conveyance could occur.
Ruslan Stefanchuk, Speaker and Chairman of the Parliament of Ukraine, sent a letter to Congress on 08 March 2022 stating Ukraine needs additional aircraft.
In April 2022 the Ukrainian Air Force (UAF) released a public statement that emphasized the critical need for air assets: “Air superiority is the deciding factor in the war. Air superiority has played a key role in all wars since WWII... Ukraine’s air force cannot close the sky over Ukraine or gain air superiority due to a large discrepancy in equipment and technologies.... “To date, our allies have not answered our call for air defense support (fighter jets and SAM).... “In the sky, the greatest need is for fighter jets – F-15s and F-16s of the fourth generation or higher would be sufficient; Ukrainian pilots can learn to fly these with just 2-3 weeks of training.”
The F-16, which is one of the most mass-produced aircraft in its class in the world, is much needed at this stage. Ukraine will be able to service it, and thanks to its Western partners, it will not experience a shortage of ammunition. Gripen or Eurofighter [fighter jets made and used in European military forces] are more resistant to Ukrainian airfield infrastructure, but for all that, they are not mass-produced. There is no, let's say, ‘secondary market’ for such aircraft in the world.
One of the reasons for the delay in the transfer of Western fighters to Ukraine is the long-term training of Ukrainian pilots who are used to working on Soviet-type aircraft. The House of Representatives of the US Congress approved funding for the training of Ukrainian pilots on US fighter jets, allocating US$100 million for this purpose. Ukraine’s Air Force chose a group of pilots who can begin training on modern foreign fighters, and it is now up to Western partners to decide on the types of aircraft that can be provided to Ukraine. Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has a plan for the fastest retraining of pilots and aviation engineering personnel for US-made F-16 Falcon, F-15, and maybe F-18 fighter jets. Even aerobatics, the skills of which Ukrainian pilots possess, does not save them from the missiles of Russian-fascist invaders, Colonel Yuriy Bulavka, a 1st class fighter pilot said 27 April 2022 . "We need more advanced aircraft to counter the enemy in the air. American F-16 Falcons, F-15s, and maybe F-18s would be enough to tip the advantage in our favor," the pilot said. According to him, there is an action plan for the fastest retraining of pilots and aviation engineering personnel.
Rep. Kinzinger, Adam [R-IL-16] on 17 June 2022 introduced H.R.8144 - Ukrainian Fighter Pilots Act. This bill authorizes providing assistance and training to Ukrainian military pilots and other Ukrainian forces involved in flying or maintaining F-15 and F-16 aircraft. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, with no subsequwnt Congressional action.
There was to be authorized to be appropriated, from amounts authorized to be appropriated to carry out section 541 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2347; relating to international military education and training) and amounts authorized to be appropriated to build the capacity of foreign security forces pursuant to section 333 of title 10, United States Code, $100,000,000.
Amounts so authorized shall be made available to provide assistance to Ukrainian military pilots (and, as appropriate, other Ukrainian Forces involved in flying or maintaining F–15 and F–16 aircraft) for the following purposes: Training and familiarity building with the F–15, F–16, and other air platforms as appropriate for air-to-air combat. Training on the use of munitions sets determined appropriate by the Secretary of Defense, such as AIM–9X2 or AIM–9M. Establishing a rapport between the Armed Forces of the United States and the Armed Forces of Ukraine to build partnerships for the future. Enhancement of capabilities for aerial combat operations. Focusing on the ability of Ukraine to teach current and future pilots on the F–15, F–16, and other air platforms in Ukraine and elsewhere, especially during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Fostering a better understanding of the air platforms, tactics, and techniques of the United States and other member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
By September 2022 Ukraine had stopped publicly asking for high-end U.S. weapons such as Patriot air defense systems, F-16 fighter jets and Gray Eagle drones. But behind the scenes, the push hadn’t stopped for weapons that could turn the tide of the war. The change from a public campaign to a private one came as advisers grew concerned that the requests for high-end weapons were a distraction from Kyiv’s more immediate battlefield needs.
By September 2022 Ukraine was privately negotiating with the United States for the supply of F-16 fighter jets, as well as air defense systems and drones. In addition to fighters, Ukraine is interested in Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems and MQ-1C Gray Eagle combat drones. According to representatives of the Ukrainian government, the Pentagon and defense industry leaders, the parties are discussing whether to transfer all of the aforementioned weapons to Ukraine, as the terms of long-term agreements on the financing of these weapons are still being negotiated.
"In recent weeks, there has been a shift from loud calls to provide air defense systems and fighter jets to more 'quiet' talks. The campaign was led by Zelensky's advisers, who received friendly advice from the Biden administration itself to focus more on what Ukraine needs right now to push the Russians out of the occupied territories in the east and south," the newspaper writes. At the same time, the publication draws attention to the great demand for F-16 fighters from the US allies, but Kyiv "probably will receive them when the war is already over."
The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine had selected a group of pilots who will be mastering Western fighter jets in the future. Yurii Ihnat, Speaker of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, mentioned this on air during the UA together marathon 30 October 2022. According to him, the selected group includes several dozen pilots proficient in English.
“Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk, Commander of the Air Force, identified a group – these include dozens of pilots who can move and start studying even tomorrow. Just need to decide which warplanes the partners would be ready to provide us. These airmen are young, promising, proficient in English, with combat experience,” Ihnat said.
On 16 November 2022 Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed his solidarity with Poland and suggested convening an urgent NATO summit. He considers it right to provide Ukraine with modern F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, as well as air defense systems, as one of the further joint actions.
"Ukraine reaffirms its full solidarity with Poland and stands ready to provide any necessary support. Collective response to Russian actions must be tough and principled. Among immediate actions: a NATO summit with Ukraine's participation to craft further joint actions which will force Russia to change its course on escalation, providing Ukraine with modern aircraft such as F-15 and F-16, as well as air defense systems, so that we can intercept any Russian missiles. Today, protecting Ukraine’s skies means protecting," Kuleba wrote.
On 29 November 2022, Mykhailo Podoliak, the Adviser to the Head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, urged the World to supply Ukraine with desperately needed state-of-art weapon to support Ukrainian nations getting ready to survive the harshest winter in history. In particular, Podoliak urged to provide Ukraine with Patriot air defence systems, F-16 fighter jets and Leopard tanks.
" No eloquent speech will say more than concrete action. "Patriot", "F-16", or "Leopard" for Ukraine it’s not only about air defense or a tank, but also an important support act for people preparing to survive their harshest winter and paying the highest price for Europe's security”, the Adviser wrote.
According to Republican senator Jim Risch, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, he himself supports the provision of fighter jets to Ukraine, but there is still no majority among Congress members. Risch shared this in an interview with "European Pravda" on the sidelines of the Halifax Security Forum, attending it as the head of the American Congress delegation. He noted that air control is necessary for Ukraine to win the war.
"I'm probably at the world's robust end of the spectrum. If it was up to me, fighter jets would be important, training the pilots would be important. I hear people say: ‘Oh, you can't do that because you're going to escalate the war.’ Look when we fought in Vietnam and in Korea, the Russians supplied jets and supplied pilots to the other side. It's time to return the favour. I met with the pilots from Ukraine. I believe they can fly our F-16. It's going to take them some training. I don't think flying them is as much of a problem as operating the avionics and the battle systems in the airplane" noted Jim Risch.
"I hear people say: ‘Oh, you can't do that because you're going to escalate the war.’ Look when we fought in Vietnam and in Korea, the Russians supplied jets and supplied pilots to the other side. It's time to return the favour. I met with the pilots from Ukraine. I believe they can fly our F-16. It's going to take them some training. I don't think flying them is as much of a problem as operating the avionics and the battle systems in the airplane....
"I think that the F-16 would be a weapon that could be used. I have to say I'm in the minority on that. I don't think that there is a majority that believes that."
Jeffrey Fischer, a former US Air Force colonel, argued 09 January 2023 in a Kyiv Post piece that Kyiv did not need to request aircraft directly from the US Air Force. Instead, Fischer suggested Kyiv take advantage of a 2019 Defense Department initiative to outsource its aggressor air training units to a few private corporations that not only conduct pilot training but also possess the aircraft that will likely be deployed in battle. He noted ", the company would provide its own qualified aircrew (and well qualified at that). There’d be no training requirement. "
"Top Aces or Draken have built fleets that could provide a substantial capability given their recent procurement of F-16 Falcons. Top Aces recently won a $175 million defense contract to provide F-16 aggressor training to the U.S. Air Force after procuring 29 ex-Israeli F-16s. Similarly, Draken’s former CEO, Joe Ford, announced the purchase of 12 ex-Norwegian F-16s... "
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hoped to receive F-16 fighter jets and long-range missiles from Western countries at future meetings of defense ministers at the American Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Zelensky said 20 January 2023, speaking to the meeting participants via video link. Zelensky also expressed hope that the next meetings at this air base "will go down in history as Rammstein F-16s and long-range missiles."
Michael Rubin of 19fortyfive.com noted in January 2023 "At present, it takes approximately two years to move F-16 pilots from the simulator to mastery of the F-16s itself. If perfection need not be enemy of the good, then perhaps Ukrainians who begin training this month could be operating F-16s independently by summer 2024. A complete course of training would bring Ukrainian F-16 pilots into 2025. Such training would not force any decision, but it would keep all options on the table rather than force Ukraine and its allies to weather a two-year delay once Biden or a successor gives a green light."
The Dutch Cabinet will look into supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine if the Kyiv government asks for it. During a parliamentary debate on 19 January 2023, Minister Wopke Hoekstra of Foreign Affairs said the Cabinet would look at such a request with an “open mind.”
The Netherlands is ready to consider the possibility of supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine if a corresponding request is received from Kyiv. This was stated by Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra, whose words are quoted on 20 January 2023 by the RTL TV channel. According to the minister, the Netherlands "may consider the possibility of supplying F-16s," if the Ukrainian side asks for it. The corresponding proposal was made during the debates in the Dutch parliament by the deputy of the party "Democrats-66" Syurd Syurdsma. In this context, Hoekstra stressed that the Netherlands sends only what Ukraine requests.
Some Pentagon officials were skeptical of US President Joe Biden's words that Washington would not supply F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv, The Washington Post reported 31 January 2023. "President Biden's blunt refusal to comply with Ukraine's F-16 [delivery] request was met with skepticism at the Pentagon, where some officials, citing the administration's [US] manner of reversing [their position] after initially refusing to respond to Kyiv's other requests foresee the potential approval [of the F-16 transfer] or the option of US allies providing [Kyiv] aircraft with the administration's permission," the newspaper wrote.
A U.S. defense official said that while the Pentagon's F-16 plans are unlikely to change any time soon, there is a possibility of a scenario similar to the Abrams tank delivery to Kyiv. Initially, representatives of the Washington administration called it inappropriate to transfer these tanks to Ukraine due to the fact that it would be difficult for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to service them.
Another source of The Washington Post acknowledged that there is growing frustration in the Pentagon among those who want to do more to help Ukraine, but their aspirations are blocked by supporters of a more cautious approach on this issue. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did not want to approve sending Abrams tanks and Patriot missile defense systems to Kyiv, but the president ultimately decided to provide them to Kyiv.
The potential transfer of F-16 fighters to Ukraine would be a difficult task due to the long training periods. This was announced on 02 February 2023 on the air of Polish television by Deputy Minister of Defense Marcin Ocepa. "These are not machine guns that you can just put into someone's hands," he said. Asked how long F-16 training takes, Ochepa said the process takes "many months." "If we reduce it, then I think maybe six months. But this is in a very urgent mode. In normal mode, it is much longer. In addition, infrastructure and logistics are needed. Because of all this, this operation would be difficult," he said. he. As the representative of the Polish defense ministry emphasized, at the moment the issue of transferring the F-16 to Ukraine is not being discussed. "There is no political decision, and there is nothing to comment on," he stated.
A group of American lawmakers called on US President Joe Biden to begin deliveries of F-16 fighter-bombers to Ukraine or to facilitate the transfer of similar aircraft to Kyiv. This was reported on 17 February 2023 by the Politico newspaper. "The provision of these aircraft is necessary to help Ukraine protect its airspace, especially in light of the resumption of offensive operations by Russia and the expected intensification of large-scale battles," the letter says, excerpts from which were published by the publication. The message to the American president was signed by five members of the House of Representatives of the US Congress. Three of them are Democrats, two are Republicans.
Legislators believe that the F-16 or similar aircraft would allow the Ukrainian military, in particular, to hit Russian missiles and drones, provide cover for ground forces, and fight for air superiority. As Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said in an interview in the newspapers of the Funke editorial group , Kiev has no promises to supply fighter jets from any country yet.
The White House said on March 9 that Washington currently has no plans to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16. And US President Joe Biden noted that the supply of American fighters "is not a priority right now." At the same time, on March 4, the NBC channel announced the arrival of two Ukrainian pilots in the United States for possible training in working with Western strike aircraft, including F-16 fighters.
A group of US senators sent a letter 14 March 2023 to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding that they explore the possibility of sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. "This would be a significant contribution that could have a decisive impact on the battlefield," said the letter, which was signed by eight members of the US Senate from both the Republican and Democratic parties. "We are now at a turning point in the conflict. It is imperative that the US continue to carefully analyze the assistance it can provide in order for Kiev to defeat Russia on the battlefield," the politicians said. They are waiting for a response from Austin no later than March 17th.
Testing of Ukrainian military pilots in the United States has shown that they can master the F-16 fighter in less than six months. This was stated by the head of aviation of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Serhiy Golubtsov told The Times 19 March 2023. "The two pilots spent three weeks there, training on the F-16 simulator for joint weapons flight. The results are very good: Ukrainian pilots can learn to fly and control the weapons system on the F-16 in less than six months," he said. According to Golubtsov, the most capable Ukrainian pilots can master the program as soon as possible. "The skills of the pilots were rated very highly, and these guys were just average pilots. Each pilot is unique, so there should be an individual training plan. But after this assessment, we can significantly reduce the [training] period, depending on the previous experience of Ukrainian pilots. This great news for us," he said.
Denmark will agree to transfer F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine only jointly with other countries, but not unilaterally. The corresponding statement was made by the country's Acting Minister of Defense Troels Lund Poulsen on TV 2 on 11 April 2023. "We will do this together with other countries. We will also have a dialogue with the Americans on this topic. But, according to my estimates, we will be able to come to a decision in a short time," Poulsen said, adding that the allies would find him before the start of the summer holidays. According to a survey conducted by the Voxmeter sociological institute commissioned by the Ritzaus Bureau agency , 40% of respondents were in favor of transferring Danish aircraft to Ukraine, provided that this is done jointly with other countries. 34% of the respondents were against, and 25% could not decide on an answer.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has asked the United States to provide F-15 and F-16 fighter jets for its war against Russia. Shmyhal met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on 12 April 2023. Austin said, "We'll continue to swiftly deliver security assistance through procurements and from our own stocks as well." He also said, "I'm confident that we will meet Ukraine's defense needs through this spring and beyond." Shmyhal thanked the US for its "steady and continuous military support" and said, "We will win this war. But to achieve it faster and with fewer casualties, Ukraine still needs intensive military support." He then called on the US to supply the fighter jets, as well as long-range missiles. So far, Washington has not agreed to provide them to Ukraine.
The F-16 is not called a viper for no reason. It's a vicious, nasty, dangerous little airplane. It's tiny, it's hard to see on radar, it's even harder to see in the air with the naked eye.
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