Group of DoD officials secretly lobbying for F-16s to Kiev: Politico
Politico reveals that the campaign for sending US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine is gathering momentum in the Pentagon.
A group of US military officials is quietly lobbying for sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Politico reported, citing three anonymous sources familiar with the matter.
Recently, Kiev has renewed its request for modern fighters. A senior Ukrainian official confirmed on Saturday that Ukraine and its Western allies are engaged in "fast-track" talks on possible long-range missiles and military aircraft deliveries.
According to the newspaper, the campaign for F-16s to Ukraine is gaining momentum in the Pentagon, while Kiev is bracing for a planned offensive this spring.
A senior Pentagon official told Politico he did not think the US Department of Defense (DoD) was opposed to the idea, noting that there was no final decision on the possible supplies yet. Meanwhile, Ukraine should clearly indicate that F-16 fighter jets are "its top priority," the source said.
One advisor to the Ukrainian government said the subject has been raised with the US but noted that there has been "nothing too serious" on the table yet.
Another source familiar with the conversations between Washington and Kiev indicated that it may take weeks for the US to make a decision on such deliveries, pointing out that the fighter jets would have to be sourced from the country's own reserves or reexported from other countries.
"If we get them, the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense. ... It’s not just F-16s: fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want," Yuriy Sak, an advisor for Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters.
However, there is no appetite in the Pentagon for this proposal, US officials revealed, according to Politico.
The newspaper said US officials are reportedly more concerned with Ukraine's dwindling missile stockpiles for air defense systems at the moment. The DoD official involved in the discussions warned that if Ukraine ran out of its arsenal, Russia's advanced fighter jets would come to dominate the country's airspace and Kiev would "not be able to compete." Therefore, modern fighter jets could solve this problem, the newspaper said, citing a group of military officials in the Pentagon and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, some Pentagon officials argue that the Ukrainian forces have a more pressing need for "traditional" air defense systems — including Patriots and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) — rather than F-16s, which may "take months" to arrive, according to the report.
Even though Washington has not yet decided on the deliveries of fighter jets, Ukraine has already compiled a list of some 50 pilots, who are ready to start training on F-16s, speak English, and have a track record of "thousands of combat missions," the newspaper cited a DoD official and a Ukrainian official, as well as three other people familiar with the discussions, as saying.
After tanks, Ukraine wants 24 fighter jets from allies: Air Force
Earlier, Colonel Yurii Ihnat, the spokesperson for the Air Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Kiev intends to obtain 24 F-16 fighter jets from its international allies.
"Two battalions with 12 combat aircraft each. This is the new military aid package that the Ukrainian army intends to obtain from its international allies," Ihnat told the Spanish newspaper, El Pais.
The Ukrainian Spokesperson indicated that the Air Force's priority is to receive US-made F-16s, although Kiev considers other options such as Swedish Gripen and French Rafale.
Ihnat pointed out that "the 24 fighters — ideally they should be American F-16s — would represent only an urgent first phase in a new chapter in the delivery of weapons to Ukraine."
Demands, expectations, dictates: Zelensky now after missiles, jets
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky considered on Wednesday that the West must provide Kiev with jets and long-range missiles in order to help the fight against Russia.
Zelensky stressed that his country needs jets to be able to repel Russia's forces. "This is a dream. And this is a task," he said.
His statement came directly after the United States and Germany announced that they will send their most advanced main battle tanks to Ukraine, the US-made M1 Abrams and the Leopard 2.
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