Ukraine Seeks Coveted F-16 to Counter Russia

Fri Apr 07 2023
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KYIV: A top Ukrainian air commander said that Ukraine desperately needed F-16 fighter jets, which he described as “four or five times” more effective than the Soviet-era planes recently used by Ukraine.


Serhiy Holubtsov, one of the senior commanders in the air force, said that while donations of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets by allies were a “significant step,” the planes did not fully meet Ukraine’s battlefield requirements.


North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members Poland and Slovakia recently began to hand over MiG-29 jets to Ukraine as Kyiv prepares for the much-vaunted counter-offensive to retake territory occupied by Russia.


But Holubtsov said that while Soviet-era warplanes were better than nothing, they couldn’t fully counteract Russia’s vast air force.


F-16 is the fighter that has become a multirole aircraft


On national television, he said, “The F-16 is the fighter that has become a multirole aircraft which can fulfil the entire spectrum of airborne tasks. The MiG-29, unfortunately, is (an air fighter) from the last century,”


On a visit to Warsaw, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he believed Poland would lead in forming a “coalition” of Western powers supplying warplanes to Ukraine. Warsaw helped galvanize support for supplies of tanks earlier this year.


During Zelenskiy’s visit, Poland pledged ten further MiG-29s to Ukraine on top of the four already provided.


Any partners of F-16 donors would likely rely on backing from the United States, by far the operator and builder of the planes.

Washington has ruled out sending F-16 to Ukraine for now, and United States officials have estimated the expeditious time needed for training and delivery at 18 months.


Holubtsov said there was the possibility of foreign pilots flying Ukrainian jets but that they would be helpful when flying aircraft on which they have already been trained.


He said two Ukrainian pilots had undergone tests in the United States to assess their skills, which he said were “successful”. He could lead to an “important shortening” of the training time required for Ukrainian pilots.


He didn’t say how long that revised training time might be.

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