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

British and Dutch plans to assist Ukraine receive F-16 fighter jets have put america and a few of its closest European allies at odds — but once more — over what weapons the West ought to ship Kyiv to defend towards Russia’s invasion.

Even when the Biden administration overcomes its long-held reluctance to offer Ukraine the American-made planes, the F-16 wouldn’t be utilized in fight for months on the earliest, officers and army analysts say. However with no finish to the struggle in sight, the F-16 has develop into the newest 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 come back.

Here’s a have a look at the F-16, why Ukraine desires it and why the Biden administration is hesitant to produce it.

First flown in 1976, the F-16 “Combating Falcon” is a supersonic fighter jet utilized by militaries in 25 international locations 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 international locations {that a} senior Ukrainian official says have quietly signaled they’re prepared to switch a few of their F-16s to Kyiv.

It’s extensively thought-about versatile, light-weight and cost-effective — with a price ticket of as much as $63 million, relying on the mannequin, in keeping with some estimates. There are roughly 3,000 at present in energetic army service worldwide, together with lots of within the U.S. Air Drive and Navy.

The F-16 has each offensive and defensive capabilities. Within the brief time period, Ukrainian officers say, F-16s and different superior Western fighter jets are wanted to reinforce air defenses, with Kyiv’s current ground-launched methods being exhausted by frequent barrages of Russian missiles. The jets might be launched inside minutes and outfitted to shoot down incoming missiles and enemy plane.

With out fashionable fighter jets, “no air protection system shall be excellent,” President Volodymyr Zelensky advised European leaders gathered at a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, this week.

Past the present battle, many officers throughout Europe and in america consider the F-16 might be a key deterrent to future aggression towards Ukraine by Russia’s vastly superior air pressure.

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 in its coming counteroffensive towards Russia — a battle that many within the West hope shall be a turning level within the struggle. A senior American official mentioned this week that the price of sending F-16s would take in a lot of an already dwindling pot of U.S. struggle funding.

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

She mentioned that fashionable Western jet fighters, like F-16s, had been “about eighth on the checklist” of priorities.

Most likely truthful to excessive, in keeping with 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 underneath strain from European allies and Congress.

Beneath what analysts describe because the largely seemingly situation, america would difficulty re-export licenses to different international locations which have F-16s, permitting them to switch their jets to Ukraine. Given the prices of every jet, it’s much less seemingly that america would ship its personal F-16s to Ukraine, although it’s not inconceivable.

If Western allies intend to improve Ukraine’s aged Soviet-era air fleet with extra fashionable jets, giving the nation F-16s is “the probably end result,” mentioned Douglas Barrie, a army aerospace professional on the Worldwide Institute for Strategic Research in London.

He additionally mentioned it could 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 a minimum of considerably on board. “It will be shocking, to place it mildly,” he mentioned.


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