The US has authorized western allies in Ukraine to receive F-16 fighter jets – and approved the training of Ukrainians to fly these warplanes.
The UK, Netherlands and Belgium welcomed the move of US President Joe Biden.
Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Prime Minister, tweeted on Friday: “The UK and the USA will work with the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark to provide Ukraine with the combat air capabilities it needs.” “We stand united.”
How many jets, when will they be delivered and from which countries?
Sky News examines the F-16 jet fighters in detail and their importance for Ukraine’s military efforts.
Why are F-16s so important in war?
Sean Bell, Sky News’ military expert, says that despite Russia having more aircraft and tanks than Ukraine on the battlefield, Ukrainians are showing tenacity and courage.
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Ukraine’s confidence has grown as the West provides more support and weapons with longer range. However, Bell stated that Zelenskyy had been asking for this capability for over a year and added “fighter planes are the only thing he cannot match Russia with.”
He says that the Russian air force would “certainly not stand a shot” if the West provided manned combat aircraft.
Bell said that it could take military personnel months or years to learn to fly the F-16s.
“This is all about giving ability.” Zelenskyy’s been pounding the drum for a while now.
“The West is reluctant to do this because they know that it will take some time. But it could prove to be a very powerful capability in this war.”
What is the F-16?
Lockheed Martin, an American defence contractor, is the manufacturer of the F-16.
This is a multirole fighter created for the United States Air Force.
The F-16 is equipped with an M61 Vulcan internal cannon, and has 11 mounting locations for weapons and equipment.
The payload of the AIM-120 is typically two AIM-120 air-to-air medium-range missiles, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder bombs weighing 2,000 lb (907 kg).
The jet has a maximum speed of 1,500mph, and a range exceeding 2,002 miles.
The aircraft has a wingspan measuring 32ft 8in and a length measuring 49ft 5in (13,8m). It has a takeoff weight of 17,010kg and weighs only 19,700lb (8.935kg) with fuel.
The aircraft is available in both a two-seater and a one-seater version.
During the Gulf War in 1991, F-16s attacked airfields, production facilities, and other targets.
The aircraft has been used in American conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, as well as the Persian Gulf.
Other countries than the US operate them, including Poland and Belgium.
When is it realistic to expect F-16s?
Two key elements are important to consider.
The US produces F-16s, so they would have to grant permission to other countries to use their aircraft.
Bell continues, “The F-16 is the most exported aircraft in the entire world because there are so many of them.”
Two factors are important to the F-16s Plan.
To ensure that pilots are able to fly an aircraft, they must first be trained.
Second, you need to consider how the F-16s are going to be delivered.
Bell said: “Although many countries operate them, because they’re so expensive, no one has more than they need and nobody could afford 20-30 of these platforms for Ukraine.”
Which countries can provide F-16s to the United States?
Currently, around 25 countries operate the F-16.
Bell claims that the fighter jets are expensive and, although many countries own them, “none have spare aircraft.”
“They are just too expensive,” he adds. You buy only what you can, but that is not enough to use them for all the things you want.
“So, none of the countries will be able get rid of excess aircraft. I think they’ll have to concentrate on jets that are similar.
“So, who is operating a certain block of aircraft? And see if there’s some shuffling going on behind the scenes so that different countries could give each other aircraft to get a common plane that comes to Ukraine.”
When could Ukraine begin using them?
US officials estimate that training and delivery could take up to 18 months.
On Monday, Emmanuel Macron stated that France is ready to train Ukrainian pilots immediately.
London has agreed that it will begin training pilots this spring, and is looking at ways to shorten the sessions for Ukrainian pilots with experience.
Ben Wallace, UK Defense Secretary, said on Wednesday that “this is not about giving away weapon systems.”
This is about giving a platform. “If anyone is a Formula One fan, you can’t gift just a car. You have to give a pit crew.”