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US unlikely to provide Ukraine with fighter jets

Russia, American, White House

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US unlikely to provide Ukraine with fighter jets

Supplying Ukraine with fighter jets will not change the course of the war. Writes Ahmed Adel

There is a debate in the US about providing further military support for Ukraine, particularly on whether F-16, F-15 and A-10 fighter aircraft should be transferred. However, the biggest concern from Washington’s perspective is that it could escalate the war and the fact that advanced American technology could end up in the hands of Russia.

Although the White House promised unconditional military support to Kiev, there is no consensus on this issue in Washington. Recently, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Jack Reed publicly expressed doubts about the need to send fighter jets to Ukraine.

It is recalled that the US House of Representatives proposed to allocate $100 million to teach Ukrainian pilots how to fly American fighter jets. This idea was shot down though as there are concerns that Western military technology could fall into the hands of Russia. A lot can be learned from the wreckages of destroyed aircraft, such as understanding the design features and materials used, as well as studying the remnants of radio electronics and communication and navigational means. This is a scenario that the US wants to avoid.

Washington is also concerned that Western aviation may lose to Russian air defense systems, something that would not only be humiliating, but also affect potential sales on the world arms market. Another factor is that it is impossible to train fighter pilots in only a single month, especially to a level to be effective against Russian fighter jets and air defense systems.

The US has made it clear that they do not expect the conflict to escalate beyond its current level. Ukraine having advanced American aircraft, with a potential of hitting targets deep in Russian territory, would certainly escalate the war.

When US Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall was asked in late July if the US would consider giving Ukraine A-10s attack aircraft, he did not rule it out in the long term.

“Older US systems are a possibility,” Kendall said when speaking at the Aspen Security Forum. “As Ukraine, which is pretty busy dealing with the right-now problem, tries to sort out what its future will be longer term, we will be open to discussions with them about what their requirements are and how we might be able to satisfy them.”

The problem with this is, as highlighted in late August by US Under Secretary of Defence for Political Affairs Colin Kahl, that even if Washington decided to provide the aircraft, the process will take years. In addition to training personnel, it is also necessary to build maintenance infrastructure.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, since the Russian military operation in Ukraine began in February, more than 300 Ukrainian planes and helicopters have been destroyed. In the Ukrainian Air Force’s current service, there are not many aircraft that can take off. It is known that some aircraft have been upgraded to suit Western HARM anti-radar missiles, but even Kiev admits that it is not enough to significantly influence the course of the war.

There exists an even more serious problem than equipment though – trained crew being able to fly aircraft. Nearly all of Ukraine’s qualified flight personnel have been killed in the fighting. Reports claim that Kiev fast-tracked cadets from the Kharkov Military Academy into the fighting despite not yet completing their training. They were shot down in their first sorties.

Due to these issues, it is unlikely that the US will decide to deliver fighter aircraft to Ukraine. This has not stopped the US from pumping other weapons to Ukraine though. Furthermore, NATO members have agreed on new deliveries of other weapons.

The US Department of Defense announced the allocation of a new aid package worth $675 million. These include GMLRS precision-guided missiles for the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system, four 105mm cannons with ammunition, 100 HMMWV armored vehicles, 50 medical vehicles, anti-radar missile systems, anti-tank systems, remote minelaying equipment, night vision kits and other equipment.

For their part, Poland and the Baltic States agreed to provide Ukraine with additional ammunition shipments, France with CAESAR 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, and the UK with M770 multiple launch rocket systems, Mastiff armored vehicles and armored personnel carriers. In addition, Germany promised to deliver the Iris-T air defense system with radar and reconnaissance UAV, which are being supplied directly from the factory because Germany’s reserves are exhausted.

Meanwhile, Kiev is constantly demanding more weapons and military equipment. Yet Ukraine’s allies and donors, especially in the EU, are finding it increasingly difficult to meet demand as it is impossible to not jeopardies their own defenses, especially at a time when a cost-of-living and energy crisis grips the continent.

None-the-less, although debate continues in Washington, it is unlikely that fighter jets will be provided to Ukraine, especially as any realist understands that Russia has complete air control in Ukraine and it is impossible to reverse this without a direct intervention from third parties.

Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher.

Blitz’s Editorial Board is not responsible for the stories published under this byline. This includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on BLiTZ

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