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Ryan Robertson

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International

UK leading ‘jet coalition’ to send F-16s to Ukraine

May 18, 2023

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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Ukrainian pilots will be flying F-16s within two years. Those pilots will begin training in the United Kingdom this summer. The decision to train Ukrainian pilots how to fly Western jet fighters isn’t necessarily about ending the current war in Ukraine, but about possibly preventing another.

Since Russia invaded more than a year ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pleading with the West to send modern jet fighters to help close the skies above Ukraine. Specifically, he wants F-16s.

So far, the West, or more precisely the Biden administration, has been unwilling to let Ukraine have the fourth-generation fighters. However just like tanks, HIMARS and Patriot missile defense systems before them, the tone over F-16s is changing.

The U.K. announced it would start a flying training program for Ukrainian student pilots after a meeting between U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Zelenskyy. Not only that, but both leaders left the meeting talking about the creation of a ‘jets coalition’ to deliver F-16s to Ukraine sooner rather than later.

Sunak is expected to make the case for sending jets to Ukraine at a Council of Europe summit and to the leaders of the G7 nations. If the plan hasn’t been approved by July, it can be expected that Sunak will carry his message to the annual NATO summit.

Poland and the Netherlands talked about forming a jets coalition for Ukraine before. Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told Politico the country needs between 40 and 50 modern fighters to combat the onslaught of missiles, drones and rockets from the Russians.

The F-16 is seen as the obvious choice because of its versatility and availability. Also called a Viper, the jet is a multi-role fighter with offensive and defensive capabilities. It can be equipped to attack both air and ground targets. The planes can launch in minutes and will round-out Ukraine’s air defenses, which are strained to say the least.

The F-16 is the most widely produced fourth-generation fighter and there are currently about 3,000 being used by U.S.-allied militaries. Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland all fly F-16s, and have some to spare. They already said they would give them to Ukraine if the U.S. would sign off on the deal.

To date, the Biden administration said it’s not approving any sort of deal that would send jets to Ukraine because it is focusing on weapons systems that will help Ukraine now.

Despite the administration’s current stance, in March, the U.S. began training Ukrainian pilots on a simulator in Arizona to fly Western jets. It’s unlikely the U.K. would train new Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s without some form of U.S. approval.

It typically takes about five years to train new fighter pilots. The U.K. said it will tailor its training regimen for Ukrainian pilots to speed up that timeline. The U.K. said it’s going to start training new pilots first, which will keep Ukraine’s current pilots defending the skies over Ukraine. If a decision to transfer F-16s comes this summer, a seasoned Ukrainian pilot could learn to fly a Viper in a matter of months.

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UKRAINIAN PILOTS WILL BE FLYING F-16s WITHIN TWO YEARS. THOSE PILOTS WILL BEGIN TRAINING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM THIS SUMMER. THE DECISION TO TRAIN UKRAINIAN PILOTS HOW TO FLY WESTERN JET FIGHTERS ISN’T NECESSARILY ABOUT ENDING THE CURRENT WAR IN UKRAINE, BUT ABOUT POSSIBLY PREVENTING ANOTHER.

SINCE RUSSIA INVADED MORE THAN A YEAR AGO, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY HAS BEEN PLEADING WITH THE WEST TO SEND MODERN JET FIGHTERS TO HELP CLOSE THE SKIES ABOVE UKRAINE. SPECIFICALLY, HE WANTS F-16s.

SO FAR, THE WEST, OR MORE PRECISELY THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION, HAS BEEN UNWILLING TO LET UKRAINE HAVE THE FOURTH GENERATION FIGHTERS.

Journalist: Will the U.S. provide F-16s to Ukraine? BIDEN: No

BUT LIKE TANKS, HIMARS AND PATRIOT MISSILES BEFORE THEM,THE TONE OVER F-16s IS CHANGING. THE UK ANNOUNCED IT WOULD START A FLYING TRAINING PROGRAM FOR UKRAINIAN STUDENT PILOTS AFTER A MEETING BETWEEN UK PRIME MINISTER RISHI SUNAK AND ZELENSKYY. NOT ONLY THAT, BOTH LEADERS LEFT THE MEETING TALKING ABOUT THE CREATION OF A ‘JETS COALITION’ TO DELIVER F-16s TO UKRAINE SOONER RATHER THAN LATER.

SUNAK IS EXPECTED TO MAKE THE CASE FOR SENDING JETS TO UKRAINE AT A COUNCIL OF EUROPE SUMMIT AND TO THE LEADERS OF THE G7 NATIONS. IF THE PLAN HASN’T BEEN APPROVED BY JULY, YOU CAN EXPECT SUNAK TO CARRY HIS MESSAGE TO THE ANNUAL NATO SUMMIT.

POLAND AND THE NETHERLANDS TALKED ABOUT FORMING A JETS COALITION FOR UKRAINE BEFORE. UKRAINE’S DEFENSE MINISTER SAID THE COUNTRY NEEDS BETWEEN 40 AND 50 MODERN FIGHTERS TO COMBAT THE ONSLAUGHT OF MISSILES, DRONES AND ROCKETS FROM THE RUSSIANS.

THE F-16 IS SEEN AS THE OBVIOUS CHOICE BECAUSE OF ITS VERSATILITY AND AVAILABILITY. ALSO CALLED A VIPER, THE JET IS A MULTI-ROLE FIGHTER WITH OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE CAPABILITIES. IT CAN BE EQUIPPED TO ATTACK BOTH AIR AND GROUND TARGETS. THE PLANES CAN LAUNCH IN MINUTES AND WILL ROUND-OUT UKRAINE’S AIR DEFENSES, WHICH ARE STRAINED TO SAY THE LEAST.

THE F-16 IS THE MOST WIDELY PRODUCED 4TH GENERATION FIGHTER AND THERE ARE CURRENTLY ABOUT 3,000 BEING USED BY U.S.-ALLIED MILITARIES. DENMARK, THE NETHERLANDS, NORWAY, AND POLAND ALL FLY F-16S, HAVE SOME TO SPARE, AND ALREADY SAID THEY’D GIVE THEM TO UKRAINE IF THE U.S WOULD SIGN OFF ON THE DEAL.

TO DATE, THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SAID IT’S NOT APPROVING ANY SORT OF DEAL THAT WOULD SEND JETS TO UKRAINE BECAUSE IT IS FOCUSING ON WEAPONS SYSTEMS THAT WILL HELP UKRAINE NOW. BUT MAYBE THE BIDEN WHITE HOUSE THINKS F-16s COULD HELP UKRAINE IN THE FUTURE.

IN MARCH, THE US BEGAN TRAINING UKRAINIAN PILOTS ON A SIMULATOR IN ARIZONA TO FLY WESTERN JETS. AND IT’S UNLIKELY THE UK WOULD TRAIN NEW UKRAINIAN PILOTS TO FLY F-16s WITHOUT SOME FORM OF U.S. APPROVAL.

IT TYPICALLY TAKES ABOUT 5 YEARS TO TRAIN NEW FIGHTER PILOTS. THE UK SAID IT WILL TAILOR ITS TRAINING REGIMEN FOR UKRAINIAN PILOTS TO SPEED UP THAT TIMELINE. THE UK SAID IT’S GOING TO START TRAINING NEW PILOTS FIRST, WHICH WILL KEEP UKRAINE’S CURRENT PILOTS DEFENDING THE SKIES OVER UKRAINE. IF A DECISION TO TRANSFER F-16s COMES THIS SUMMER, A SEASONED UKRAINIAN PILOT COULD LEARN TO FLY THE F-16 IN A MATTER OF MONTHS.

WE HAVE MORE UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACT REPORTING ABOUT THE WAR IN UKRAINE, AND THE PUSH TO SEND F-16s AT STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS DOT COM.