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Ukraine Is Desperate for F-15 and F-16 Fighters to Battle Russia

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F-15 Aircraft #2 on Tarmac at Sunset with Weapons in Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Boeing.

Does Ukraine still want F-16s or F-15s to better fight the Russians?

The answer is in the affirmative, according to a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force.

The fighters would supply modern air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and bombs that could help Ukraine keep the air space contested and assist with close air support.

The Ukrainians have been calling for warplanes from NATO allies since the early days of the war, but these public requests could be falling on deaf ears. Why? 

Should Ukraine Advocate in Public or In Private?

The United States and its partners may be willing to listen if the Ukrainians continue to keep its yearnings for new fighters behind the scenes. Negotiations are ongoing, but they are mostly in private. That is why the latest public request for new fighters is noteworthy. 

Ukrainian Air Force Is Ready for New Fighters

Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said on television on November 26 that without F-16s and F-15s, it will be difficult to liberate the territory Russia holds and win the war. It is not clear if Ihnat’s statement had the blessing of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or if Ihnat was speaking only for the air force in general terms. But it looks like Zelenskyy agrees with the air force. 

President Zelenskyy Believes His Air Force Needs Help

Zelenskyy took to Facebook on November 1 and said Western fighters would “help Ukraine achieve superiority over the enemy in the skies.” He used a video from the United24 advocacy group to drive his point home. Warplanes such as the F-15 and F-16 could “significantly shift the power balance” toward Ukraine, according to the United24 narrator. Ukrainian air force pilots were interviewed in the video and yearned for advanced warplanes. “We require them right now,” one aviator said.

Another Government Official Is In Favor

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also called for F-15s and F-16s in a Twitter post on November 15, reported by the Kyiv Post. Kuleba has the idea to convene a special NATO summit in Poland to discuss how Ukraine could acquire the fighters.

Could the White House Make a Deal?

The Ukrainians have depended on the MiG-29s and Su-27s it had before the war, but these airplanes are becoming worn down from constant sorties. The U.S. and its allies would have to first train the Ukrainian pilots on how to fly F-16s and F-15s. When it comes to transferring American airplanes to Ukraine, the final decision rests with President Joe Biden, who has been reticent to up the ante by supplying fighters in the past. The White House is worried about escalating the war if it sent American warplanes.

A Trade May Not Be Sufficient

One thing the United States could do is to create “trades” with NATO allies. The Americans would supply F-16s and F-15s to NATO allies in exchange for these countries to send their MiG-29s and Su-27s and other Russian-made fighters. But that is not what Ukraine wants.

The U.S. Government Has a Tough Decision to Make

It will be interesting to see if the White House, the Pentagon, and Congress are listening to these requests and if it will move the needle on supporting Ukraine with fighters. There will be a new Congress in 2023 with some Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives questioning the amount and type of aid given to Ukraine. But the White House could still decide to act on its own without Congressional approval and send the fighters to Kyiv.

To further complicate matters, in March, at least 40 senators wrote a letter in support of transferring warplanes to Ukraine.

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F-15E Strike Eagles taxi into formation June 12, 2019, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. This was a rare opportunity to capture the Gunfighter family, including the 391st, 389th and 428th Fighter Squadrons, before a morning flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Jeremy L. Mosier)

Ukraine would likely need at least 12 F-16s and F-15s to make a difference over the skies and this would have to include pilot training, maintenance crew preparations, and weapons. This would be a significant step toward the overall Ukrainian assistance strategy and will require continued dialogue and negotiations between Kyiv and Washington. 

Expert Biography: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. GhostTomahawk

    November 29, 2022 at 11:46 pm

    No

    No

    No

    No

    It’s time to end this madness and expose our political oligarchy for their corruption and participation in the crimes they’re committing in the name of defending democracy.

    Why is the tax payer money laundering scam that was funneled thru FTX that funded the democrats elections going unreported??

    Where u at Kass

  2. Kama

    November 30, 2022 at 8:14 am

    On paper the F15s and F16s are superior to the Russian fighter jets but can the Ukraine air force effectively use them like in the NATO air forces. The methods and tactics that NATO employs its fighters are drastically different than the former Soviet bloc. NATO has a wide array of command and control nodes to provide targetting data to its fighters. The tactics are honed and rehoned in endless Red Flag exercises, and its pilots have more average flight hours than the Ukraine air force pilots. On the subject of maintenance, can the Ukraine maintain these fighters to keep up their combat effectiveness? Almost 1/3 of the artillery pieces donated by NATO are not operational because Ukraine cannot maintain them. Aircraft maintenance is on many levels in term of difficulties compare the artillery. Ukraine must continue to transform its military before it can NATO fighter jets and to employ them effectively.

  3. Jacksonian Libertarian

    November 30, 2022 at 8:36 am

    Ukraine needs air defenses, that’s what is keeping Russian aircraft off the battlefield, and destroying UAVs and cruise missiles.

    Of course Ukraine wants everything they can get, they aren’t paying for any of it. But the west should do the logistically smart thing, and send smart weapons which require little to no logistical support other than more smart weapons. Leave the industrial age logistical hogs to the Russians, and send the information age weapons that are doing most of the killing to Ukraine.

    Providing Ukraine with an air force, that the west must then support, when air power other than UAVs has played little part in this war, is wasteful.

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