F-16 for Ukraine? Just days after the United States and Germany agreed to send main battle tanks (MBTs) to Ukraine, officials in Kyiv are essentially saying thanks for the tanks, but Western aircraft is what is next needed to tip the scales in its favor and drive out Russia.
To date, Washington has pledged to send 30 M1 Abrams MBTs, while Berlin will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks – and Germany will also allow other operators to send additional tanks.
Ukraine could receive up to 100 Leopard 2s in the coming weeks. It is considered among the most advanced and capable MBT in service today.
But what Kyiv wants next is modern fighters.
Calls for More Weapons for Ukraine
On Sunday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine is facing unrelenting attacks from Russian forces in the Eastern Donbas region.
“The situation is very tough. Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other sectors in Donetsk region – there are constant Russian attacks,” Zelensky said in his night video address. “There are constant attempts to break through our defenses.”
Russia, which has faced numerous setbacks on the battlefield, is apparently ready for a long and drawn-out conflict, and a war of attrition could play into the Kremlin’s favor.
“Russia wants the war to drag on and exhaust our forces,” Zelensky added. “So we have to make time our weapon. We have to speed up events, speed up supplies and open up new weapons options for Ukraine.”
F-16 Aircraft Next?
For months, the United States and Germany had said that it would be impossible to send the MBTs for fear that it could escalate the conflict.
However, Ukraine successfully mounted a counter-offensive last year, and Russia responded with a terror campaign that targeted civilian population centers and critical infrastructure.
Western governments agreed to send tanks, as it is thought that the MBTs and other ground-based platforms could help Kyiv maintain an advantage and even achieve victory on the battlefield.
Now Ukrainian officials are suggesting that it is the airpower that could allow it to gain a significant upper hand in the fighting.
According to a report from Politico.com, there is already a coalition of military officials within the U.S. military that is pushing for the Pentagon to approve sending F-16 fighter jets.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon Could be the Right Warbird
The aircraft could help Ukraine better counter Russian missile and drone attacks.
The F-16, which has been steadily updated and enhanced since it was introduced in the late 1970s, has been among the top platforms on Ukraine’s weapons wish list for the past year – even as artillery, armor, and ground-based defense systems had been more urgent.
The F-16, which carries air-to-air missiles, could be readily employed to shoot down Russia’s missiles and drones, and unlike ground-based platforms such as the Patriot, the fighters could be deployed to protect a range of targets.
The U.S. is reportedly discussing the option of sending the fighter jets “very carefully,” even as several issues remain – including the training involved and the fact that a steady supply of spare parts would need to be supplied. However, it is increasingly looking like it will simply be a matter of time until Ukraine is also provided with the combat aircraft.
Russia has suggested such Western weapons could result in escalation, but the Kremlin also maintains that it is actually engaged in a proxy war with the West due the flow of aid to Kyia. Of course, this comes even as the Kremlin has received arms and supplies from China, North Korea and Iran.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.