First came the main battle tanks, now for air superiority. Kyiv will push its Western allies for fourth generation fighter jets such as the U.S.-made F-16 after securing supplies of heavy armor, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister outlined Wednesday.
“The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets,” Yuriy Sak, who advises Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told Reuters.
The outlet notes Ukraine’s Air Force has a fleet of ageing Soviet-era fighter jets that first flew before Kyiv even declared independence some 31 years ago. The warplanes are used for intercept missions and ground attack roles against entrenched Russian forces.
“If we get them (Western fighter jets), the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense… It’s not just F-16s (U.S. multirole fighter jets): fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want,” Sak said.
Sak spoke just hours after it was confirmed both the U.S. and other NATO allies including the UK and France will send tanks to Ukraine as it seeks to prepare its forces for an expected Russian surge in the spring.
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Kyiv requested Western-made fighter jets as soon as Russia’s full-scale invasion began in late February 2022.
To date, Ukraine has received Soviet-made fighters and spare parts from some NATO nations. But provision of modern, sophisticated Western platforms has been deemed impractical due to the extended logistical trail involved as well as training.
Critics also point to the diplomatic signal that might be interpreted as escalatory by the Kremlin.
The Dutch government has flagged its readiness to consider the delivery of F-16 fighters to Ukraine with an “open mind.”
The position was expressed by Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra on 19 January, a day before a meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Ramstein, Germany.
U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Michael Carpenter told Baltic news website Delfi he believed the White House would support any European nation wishing to send its American-made jets to Ukraine.
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