A contingent of military officials is confirmed quietly pushing the Pentagon to approve sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian missile and drone attacks.
This comes after Volodymyr Zelensky‘s army secured tanks from Germany and the US.
Ukraine has kept American-made F-16s on its weapons wish list since the Russian invasion last year.
But Washington and Kyiv have viewed artillery, armor and ground-based air defense systems as more urgent needs as Ukraine seeks to protect civilian infrastructure and claw back ground occupied by Russian forces.
The contentious discussion on whether to send the jets to Ukraine has been ongoing as the Biden administration, which has so far rebuffed Kyiv’s requests, must approve the transfers.
Deputy national security adviser Jonathan J. Finer claimed that while there is no set decision, the possibility is not off the table – but top brass are said to be keen.’We have not ruled in or out any specific systems,’ Finer said, according to The Telegraph.
Any such donation of F-16s would further infuriate Vladimir Putin, and likely further inflame the badly-damaged relationship between Russia and the West.
As Ukraine prepares to launch a new offensive to retake territory in the spring, the campaign inside the Defense Department for fighter jets is gaining momentum.
A US senior defense official added: ‘I don’t think we are opposed.’
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said on Saturday that Ukrainian officials are focused on ‘fast track’ discussions about military weapons, such as war planes.
‘We must show the real picture of this war… [and how] this will reduce security threats to the European continent,’ Podolyak said about western allies, according to the news outlet.
Spurred in part by the rapid approval of tanks and Patriot air defense systems — which not long ago were off-limits for export to Ukraine — there is renewed optimism in Kyiv that U.S. jets could be next up.
Zelensky is preparing for the US to give in to another one of his requests as experienced pilots have already been identified to fly the fighter jets, Politico reported.
The F-16 fighter will add onto Kyiv’s defense as the jet can fly for more than 500 miles and locate targets in all weather conditions – as well as detect low flying aircrafts in radar ground clutter.
The US has provided military support to Ukraine by deploying devastating missile systems, thousands of vehicles and more than 100 million pieces of ammunition.
Last week, Ukraine finally convinced Western leaders to part with dozens of sophisticated tanks which they believe will strike a huge blow in Putin’s invasion.
A top Ukrainian official said Saturday that Ukraine and its Western allies are engaged in ‘fast-track’ talks on possibly sending both long-range missiles and military aircraft.
One adviser to the Ukrainian government said the subject has been raised with Washington, but there has been ‘nothing too serious’ on the table yet.
Another person familiar with the conversations between Washington and Kyiv said it could take ‘weeks’ for the U.S. to make a decision on shipments of its own jets and approve the re-export of the F-16s from other countries.
‘If we get them, the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense. … It’s not just F-16s: fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want,’ Yuriy Sak, who advises Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, told Reuters.