What Is the F-16 Fighter Jet and Why Does Ukraine Want It?


British and Dutch plans to assist Ukraine acquire F-16 fighter jets have put the US and a few of its closest European allies at odds — yet again — over what weapons the West ought to ship Kyiv to defend in opposition to Russia’s invasion.

Even when the Biden administration overcomes its long-held reluctance to present Ukraine the American-made planes, the F-16 wouldn’t be utilized in fight for months no less than, officers and army analysts say. However without end within the conflict, the F-16 has turn out to be the most recent superior weapon that Ukraine and a few of its backers say it must stave off Russia — each within the present battle and for years to return.

Here’s a have a look at the F-16 fighter airplane, why Ukraine needs it and why the Biden administration is hesitant.

First flown in 1976, the F-16 “Combating Falcon” is a supersonic fighter jet utilized by militaries in 25 countries for air-to-air fight and air-to-ground strikes. It has flown in American conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, the Persian Gulf and on homeland protection missions in U.S. airspace.

The F-16 is constructed by the American protection contractor Lockheed Martin and producers in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway — 4 nations {that a} senior Ukrainian official says have quietly signaled they’re keen to switch a few of their F-16s to Kyiv.

It’s widely considered versatile, light-weight and cost-effective — with a price ticket of up to $63 million, relying on the mannequin, in response to some estimates. There are roughly 3,000 presently in energetic army service worldwide, together with a whole lot within the U.S. Air Power and Navy.

The F-16 has each offensive and defensive capabilities. Within the quick time period, Ukrainian officers say F-16s and different superior Western fighter jets are wanted to boost their air defenses, with Kyiv’s current ground-launched techniques being exhausted by fixed barrages of Russian missiles. They are often launched inside minutes and outfitted to shoot down incoming missiles and enemy plane.

With out trendy fighter jets, “no air protection system can be excellent,” President Volodymyr Zelensky told European leaders gathered at a summit in Reykjavik this week.

Past the present battle, many officers throughout Europe and in the US consider the F-16 could possibly be a key deterrent to future aggression in opposition to Ukraine by Russia’s vastly superior air drive.

Coaching Ukraine’s pilots to fly Western jets will take months, and the Biden administration says it’s higher to ship weapons that can assist Ukraine now in its coming counteroffensive in opposition to Russia — a battle that many within the West hope can be a turning level within the conflict. A senior American official mentioned this week that the price of sending F-16s would take up a lot of an already dwindling pot of U.S. conflict funding.

At a Home listening to final month, Celeste A. Wallander, an assistant secretary of protection, mentioned that the administration is targeted on Ukraine’s army wants but in addition on what’s sensible. “There may be additionally a timing problem: What do they require proper now, which is what we’ve been targeted on for the battles they’re dealing with, what can we ship that can be well timed and efficient?” she mentioned.

She mentioned trendy Western jet fighters, like F-16s, are “about eighth on the checklist” of priorities.

Most likely honest to excessive, in response to officers and army analysts. The Biden administration has beforehand mentioned no to a number of forms of superior weapons for Ukraine — together with HIMARS missile launchers, Abrams tanks and Patriot missiles — solely to reverse itself beneath stress from European allies and Congress.

Beneath what analysts describe because the largely doubtless state of affairs, the US would problem re-export licenses to different nations which have F-16s, permitting them to switch their jets to Ukraine. Given the prices of every jet, it’s much less doubtless that the US would ship its personal F-16s to Ukraine, although it’s not not possible.

If Western allies intend to improve Ukraine’s aged Soviet-era air fleet with extra trendy jets, giving it F-16s is “the most probably consequence,” mentioned Douglas Barrie, an army aerospace knowledgeable on the Worldwide Institute for Strategic Research in London.

He additionally mentioned it will be unlikely for Britain, with its “particular relationship” with America, to push forward with attempting to supply F-16s if the Biden administration was not no less than considerably on board: “It might be stunning, to place it mildly,” he mentioned.

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