So far, the United States has been reluctant to provide the fighter jet [F-16, A-10 Warthog, voire F-15 Eagle] that Ukraine asks them to allow their air forces to face the Russian invasion.
And when Warsaw announced its intention to cede its MiG-29 Fulcrum to Kyiv on condition that their transfer would be under American responsibility, Washington refused. “The prospect of warplanes ‘at the disposal of the US government’ departing from a US/NATO base in Germany and entering disputed airspace with Russia over Ukraine is a matter of serious concern to all of NATO,” it said the Pentagon time.
For the Ukrainian Air Force, however, “American fighter jets would tip the scales.” And to move forward, in April 2022: “We have a plan to retrain our pilots and technical staff as soon as possible. In order for such devices to be mastered quickly, a decision must be made now before it is too late.”
However, the United States Congress has been more forthcoming on the issue, despite Pentagon reservations. Last July, the House of Representatives passed an amendment aimed at allowing Ukrainian pilots to come to the United States to “train in the flying of fixed-wing aircraft and other platforms suitable for air combat,” such as the F-15 and F-16 . “Obviously, what we want to do is send a message to authorize the process,” explains Adam Kinzinger, the author of this text.
Be that as it may, the issue of fighter jets has taken a back seat as Ukraine has mainly focused on strengthening its ground forces. [artillerie, chars] and its air defense. Moreover, even if the Ukrainian fighter pilots chain the missions of the Russian Aerospace Forces [VKS] is quite discreet. At the very least, it obviously wasn’t striving for air superiority…since that doesn’t appear in its doctrine.
However, Ukrainian fighter aviation may end up getting the planes it wants… On January 18, the day before a meeting of the “Contact Group in Support of Ukraine” in Ramstein [Allemagne], Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said the Netherlands would be “open-minded” about a possible Ukrainian request for F-16 fighter-bombers… And that there were “no taboos” on the subject. But it would still be necessary to obtain Washington’s approval to supply these contraptions. What is not yet acquired.
As a reminder, the Royal Air Force [KLu, Armée de l’air royale néerlandaise] is in the process of gradually replacing its fifty F-16 MLUs with F-35As. And a first batch of 12 of his old devices were sold to the Security and Defense Services Company [ESSD] American Draken International, which could exercise an option on 28 more aircraft before 2024.
It remains to be seen whether these F-16s can actually meet Ukrainian needs. At least in the short term. “It’s not enough to give someone an F-16 and wish them luck,” General Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, said last April.
Also for the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI]a British think tank, the most suitable fighter aircraft for Ukraine would be the JAS-39 Gripen C/D…because this aircraft does not require complicated infrastructure and supply chain, and its maintenance does not require minimal technical training.