The Biden administration has told its European allies it is prepared to allow Ukraine to send “game-changing” fighter jets for use against Vladimir Putin’s forces.
The White House is under increasing pressure to help Ukraine acquire the US-made F-16, which is in the arsenals of several European countries.
However, any transfer of F-16s to Ukraine would require a sign off from the United States because the planes contain sensitive American technology.
According to CNN, White House officials have indicated to their European allies in recent weeks that they are willing to allow them to export the aircraft to Ukraine, which is currently preparing to retaliate against invading Russian forces .
The network, citing family discussions with sources, said Washington has been reluctant to donate any of its F-16s to the Kiev war effort.
According to reports, the Biden administration could approve the delivery of ‘shifter’ fighter jets to Ukraine by some of its European allies for use against Vladimir Putin’s forces.
However, CNN said the White House is prepared to send the planes if its allies in Europe decide what they want to do with the F-16 supply.
However, the network said its sources were not aware of a formal request from any of the US allies to export the planes.
He also said that no State Department officials have been asked to prepare any paperwork to approve third-party transfers, CNN reported.
The F-16 has been at the top of Ukraine’s arms wish list ever since the main battle tank was handed over to Ukraine by the US, UK and Germany.
Kiev argues that it will not be able to defeat the Russian aggressors without modern fighter jets, which have the ability to tip the scale of the war in its favor.
Ukraine’s air force currently relies on Soviet-era aircraft to fight dogfights against the Kremlin’s more modern aircraft or its air defenses.
Despite this, Russia has also failed to regain control of Ukraine’s skies, with Moscow’s air force largely on the ground due to Kiev’s own air defences.
Ukraine says the F-16s are “four to five times” more effective than Soviet-era planes, and is urging its allies to send some to Kiev.
Speaking to CNN, retired US Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton said the fourth generation fighter could be a “game changer” for Ukraine.
“It’s really versatile and can be worn so many different ways,” he told the network.
“And it’s also an aircraft that could potentially use its electronic jamming capability to go after some Russian radar.
“It’s a very important aircraft, it’s probably the best aircraft for all the different capabilities that Ukrainians want, and it’s probably the only aircraft that has it all in one package.”
The White House is under increasing pressure to help Ukraine acquire the US-made F-16, which is in the arsenals of several European countries. IMAGE: President Joe Biden arrives for a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima, Japan, Thursday, May 18, 2023, prior to the start of the G7 summit.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was making progress in persuading the West to supply Ukraine with the F-16s, which are flown by several NATO countries and their air forces.
On a tour of European capitals this week, he received a promise from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to help form a ‘coalition of ships’, although both leaders stopped short of saying they would send aircraft.
‘We want to build this coalition of jets and I’m very positive with that… I see that in the nearest moment they will hear some decisions that are, I think, very important, but we’ll have to work a little bit more on that. ‘ Zelensky said in London on Monday.
Washington – and President Joe Biden personally – has ruled out sending F-16s to Ukraine for now, and has not appeared enthusiastic about giving the green light to other countries in his public statements on the matter.
Asked about the F-16 supply on Wednesday, a State Department official said: “We want to make sure that the assets and systems that we provide to our Ukrainian partners are most effective, that They can use them now.”
Western governments have been wary of leaving their own countries defenseless by giving too much equipment.
He has also refrained from sending anything that could move deep into Russian territory and give Moscow a reason to escalate the war.
No aircraft of Western design have yet been donated. Poland and Slovakia have supplied 27 MiG-29s to supplement Ukraine’s existing fleet.
Poland has given 14 MiG-29s to Ukraine and has said it will give more. However, Polish President Andrzej Duda reiterated on Tuesday that Poland has too few F-16s to give to Ukraine.
Slovakia has donated 13 MiG-29 aircraft in various states of airworthiness to Ukraine.
Contrary to these numbers, the F-16s, also known as the Fighting Falcon or Viper and built by Lockheed Martin, are the most popular fighter jets in the world.
Around 4,500 are stationed in various countries around the world.
Ukrainian soldiers fire a cannon on May 15 near Bakhmut, an eastern town in Ukraine’s Donetsk region where fierce fighting has been fought against Russian forces.
Rutte said on 4 May that the Netherlands was working with allies including Britain, Belgium and Denmark on whether to send aircraft to Ukraine.
The Netherlands has 24 F-16s in operation until mid-2024, when they will be replaced by the F-35. It also has 18 non-operational F-16s, of which 12 have been sold.
A spokesman for Sunak said Britain would not send the aircraft to Ukraine because Britain did not have the F-16s Ukraine wanted.
Britain had previously said that the time required to train pilots and the substantial support staff required to field its Eurofighter Typhoon jets meant they would not be of immediate use, but Sunak has said the UK would be open to any interested country. ready to provide support to send aircraft to
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Wednesday that the country does not have the training capacity or enough equipment to actively contribute to an initiative to help Ukraine obtain fighter jets.
Denmark said in February that it was “open” to the idea of sending fighter jets to Ukraine. Denmark currently has around 30 F-16s in operation.
An alternative to the F-16 could be the JAS Gripen fighter jet manufactured by Swedish defense manufacturer SAAB, which is seen as a more cost-effective alternative to the F-16. The aircraft is operated by Sweden and a handful of other countries such as South Africa and Brazil.
Sweden has repeatedly said it has no plans to send Gripens to Ukraine and that the Nordic country, which is applying to join NATO, needs its existing inventory.
The Czech Republic uses leased Gripens while Slovakia is waiting to receive the F-16 and currently relies on allies to cover its airspace.
Czech President Petr Pavel has mentioned that the Czech Republic may offer some of its light subsonic L-159s, but this is theoretical at the moment.
Meanwhile, US officials have estimated that the fastest time required for training and delivery of the F-16s is 18 months.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that France is open to training Ukrainian pilots in France immediately. France has no F-16s, only French-made Rafale fighter jets and older generation Mirage 2000 jets.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured speaking in London with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak) said he was making progress in persuading the West to supply Ukraine with the F-16s, which are used for various missions. nations, are flown by NATO and its air force.
London has agreed to start training pilots in the spring and has said it will shorten the sessions for experienced Ukrainian pilots.
‘It’s not about giving away weapon systems. It’s about giving a platform. If someone follows Formula One, they don’t just give a car, they should give a pit crew,” Britain’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Wednesday.
Some fighter jet models are likely to be more suitable than others.
Justin Bronk of the RUSI think tank said the Typhoon and F-16 would have to operate from soft runways and centralized bases, while Sweden’s Gripen jets could fly at lower altitudes and be serviced on shorter runways.