White House: US and allies plan to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter planes
Uncertainty remains about the timing of Kyiv receiving aircraft, their number, and from which countries they will come. However, an official has stressed that these aircraft will not be used in a pending counteroffensive to Russia.
The announcement came just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was arriving in Japan to meet with G7 leaders.
Putin says West is trying to split up Russia-Ukraine war
The White House reported that President Joe Biden also approved the training of Ukrainian F-16 pilots.
He had previously refused to give the jets to Mr Zelenskyy.
Jake Sullivan, White House National Security Advisor, said that Western aid to Ukraine must change with the changing conflict. He made this statement on the fringes the G7 Summit in Japan.
He added, “As training takes place in the months ahead, we’ll work with our partners to determine how many planes, when they will arrive, and who will deliver them.”
Zelenskyy & Biden will now hold face-toface discussions over the weekend during the G7 Summit.
The Japanese foreign ministry said that he will arrive in Japan on Sunday for a meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. And the American national security chief also stated that a Zelenskyy and Biden summit is a “safe wager”.
The F-16s are a much-anticipated victory for Mr Zelenskyy who has repeatedly called on Western Allies to provide powerful planes to his troops.
To reinforce his message, on a recent visit to London he presented Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle a Ukrainian Air Force helmet.
Western leaders claim that the training for these aircraft will take too much time. This would be the most advanced hardware ever provided to Ukraine, increasing the stakes for both Russia and the west.
What is an F-16? And what weapons does it carry if any?
The F-16 Fighting Falcon, developed by the United States Air Force, is a multirole fighter plane.
The M61 Vulcan internal cannon is mounted in 11 places.
The payload of the AIM-9 Sidewinder is typically two bombs weighing 2,000lb (900kg), two AIM120 air-to air missiles with a medium range and two external fuel tanks weighing 2,400lb (1088kg).
The jet has a maximum speed of 1,500mph, and a range exceeding 2,002 miles.
The aircraft has a length of 13ft 6in (49ft 5in) and an wing span of 32ft 9in (9.9m). It has a takeoff weight of 17,500kg (37,500lb) and a weight without fuel of 19,700lb (89335kg).
The aircraft is available in both a two-seater and a one-seater version.
During the Gulf War of 1991, F-16s attacked airfields and military production sites, Scud missiles sites, and other targets.
The bombs were used by NATO to destroy military infrastructure in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan in 1999.
Other countries than the US operate them, including Poland and Belgium.
A White House official confirmed that the F-16s might not be from the US. However, the move is a part of an ongoing effort to improve Ukraine’s safety.
The senior Biden administration official said that “Discussions on improving the Ukrainian Air Force reflect the long-term commitment we have to Ukraine’s own defense.”
In an interview with ABC News, Mr Biden stated that US military advice indicated Ukraine didn’t need F-16s in the early 2000s.
He said, “I’m ruling out the possibility for the time being.”
The training of Ukrainian pilots for the jets will begin in Europe within the next few weeks and take several months.
Colin Kahl told Congress, Pentagon’s top official in charge of policy, that the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s would take “about 18 month”.
According to other US defence officials, the training can be reduced to six to nine month based on the pilots’ prior training and their knowledge of fighter planes.
Mr Kahl said previously that it could cost as much as $11bn (9bn PS) to revitalize Ukraine’s army with F-16 jets.
The terror and desperation in Bakhmut
Training Ukrainian pilots may compromise UK recruits
The G7 leaders are yet to announce who will pay for Ukraine’s planes.
In March, NBC News revealed that two Ukrainian fighter pilots were in America undergoing an evaluation to determine the length of time it would take them to be trained to fly F-16s and other attack aircraft.
Washington also approved the transfer of up to ten more Ukrainian pilots for further evaluation to the US.