Ukrainian official: The US doesn’t allow us to train on the F-16
Despite the desire of several European countries for Ukraine to receive the F-16, the situation continues not in favor of Kyiv. In the last 48 hours, it has become clear that Great Britain and the Netherlands will try to persuade the United States to allow the re-export of F-16s to Ukraine.
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However, the situation is not exactly “so positive and right” for Ukraine as some sources describe it. Currently, there is a gap in relations between the US and its partners, as the New York Times [NYT] writes.
A high-ranking Ukrainian official, who wished to remain anonymous, told reporters of the American newspaper that they [Ukrainian pilots] currently do not have the right or permission from Washington to board F-16 fighters from the inventory of European operators. I.e. Washington does not allow training of Ukrainian F-16 pilots.
Washington continues to believe that Ukraine does not need the F-16. This opinion has been shared since last year and the White House continues to follow this policy line until now. The NYT writes that “so deep is Washington’s skepticism that Kyiv’s pilots are currently not even allowed to train on the F-16.”
BulgarianMilitary.com reminds us that only the US has the right to determine what will happen to the US-made F-16 fighters. So far, any statement from any European country is just wishful thinking for something to happen. But this thing [F-16 training or F-16 re-export] cannot happen without permission from Washington.
London already responded a day ago regarding its intentions to train Ukrainian pilots. But, in the statement, London still emphasizes that it is not the UK, but the US that should decide “whether to release this technology”.
The US refusal to allow Ukrainian F-16 pilot training contrasts sharply with some reports in recent months that Ukrainian pilots are already being trained. This also strongly contrasts with the statements of official Kyiv.
The NYT quoted another senior official, this time from the White House, who categorically stated that the US currently has no intention of sending F-16s to Ukraine. The plane costs a lot of money, and according to the White House, it will not be useful to Ukraine, and currently, there is even a decrease in funding for Ukraine. According to the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, the US has prioritized sending another type of weapon.
But this same anonymous American official is talking about the present. According to him, there is a possibility that the US will issue a license for the re-export of the F-16 to some European countries. Whether this will happen, however, cannot be predicted at the moment. The political situation is dynamic and allows changing decisions, or “crossing red lines”.
London’s announced intentions to train Ukrainian pilots as part of a new package of military aid to Ukraine remains “up in the air”. London cannot allow a Ukrainian pilot any training without express permission from Washington.
In this regard – according to some experts, Ukraine will need 36 F-16 fighters. Other experts increase the number of fighters needed to 50.
BulgarianMilitary.com reports that the Ukrainian president toured key European partners this past weekend. Italy, Germany, France, and Britain welcomed Zelensky. This tour was precisely an attempt to create an aircraft coalition to pressure Washington to issue a re-export license.
The F-16 is a fourth-generation fighter. One of the fighter’s most valuable pieces of equipment is its powerful radar. This means that its eventual downing by a Russian fighter or air defense system would allow Russian engineers to scout and examine the radar.
The F-16 has other sensitive and secret developments. This weapon is of a different, higher status, which means that even discussing the technology with another country requires permission from the US.
According to Ukrainian attitudes, especially from the high political levels of the country, the F-16 will be a deterrent against Russia. Advisors around Zelensky believe that the F-16 will not provoke an escalation of tension, but will deter Russia.
Although many experts advise Ukraine to get a Gripen fighter instead of the F-16, Ukraine’s trials continue. Most likely because there aren’t that many Gripen fighters produced, and Zelensky doesn’t have that influence in Sweden either. BulgarianMilitary.com has repeatedly analyzed, claiming that Ukraine’s attempts to acquire the F-16 are more like attempts to equip the Ukrainian air fleet for free than looking for a more effective aircraft for the war in Ukraine.
We have analyzed several times that the F-16 has no place to land in Ukraine. This fighter needs a dedicated runway and hangar to service it. I.e. all it takes is for Russian artillery and aerospace forces to hit an airport runway or foul it, and the F-16 can’t take off.
Based on this fact, the F-16 cannot land on rough runways, let alone roads or highways. However, Gripen, MiG-29, and Su-27 can do it. What’s more, they can even take off from shorter runways, which is to the great advantage of Ukraine, regarding a new tactic of deploying the planes.
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