Australian F/A-18 Hornets, a ‘powerful’ quantity of F-16s for Ukraine, but not for the current war

Tanks and aircraft manufactured in the US may not see combat in this conflict and instead be used to restore the Ukrainian Armed Forces after the war.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Canberra is reportedly considering sending 41 retired F/A-18 Hornets to Ukraine. The United States and Ukraine are discussing this because the US must approve as it owns the F/A-18’s intellectual property rights, reports the Australian Financial Review. According to the article, Canberra and Washington may have informed Kyiv that the aircraft could only be operated within Ukrainian airspace, threatening to “effectively ground them” if they were used to conduct attacks on Russian territory.

Hornets withdrawn from service with the Royal Australian Air Force are expected to be destroyed or sold to a private firm. Most aircraft could be brought back to flying condition with relatively little work, while the remaining aircraft could be taken apart for their parts. The aircraft is currently in storage.

Powerful quantities of F-16s for Ukraine

The leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has reported that Ukraine’s partner countries have affirmed that they are willing to transfer F-16 fighters to Kyiv. He said the matter must initially be coordinated with the US, where it is manufactured.

At the European Political Community summit on June 1 in Moldova, the topic of providing Ukraine with aircraft was considered.

According to Zelensky, he attended a confidential meeting with numerous nations, during which they confirmed that they would supply his country with F-16s. He reported that some of the European partners had given him an understanding of quantity. He added, “It is powerful.” 

The head of state stated that Russia has an aerial edge over Ukraine due to Ukraine’s lack of contemporary fighters.

Since the commencement of the armed conflict, Ukraine has expressed a need for modern military aircraft. Previously, the US ruled out providing its F-16 fighters to Kyiv. President Biden stated that Ukraine did not require them during the winter. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz opposed these shipments. However, in May, the US shifted its stance, with the White House stating that the Ukrainian side may require the combatants. Biden assured allies he would not prohibit pilot training on American equipment. Germany also expressed a willingness to reconsider its position. The Ukrainian Minister of Defence advisor Yuri Sak stated that Kyiv desires to acquire 40 to 50 F-16s and establish three to four squadrons.

London and Amsterdam agreed to form a global coalition in May to supply F-16s to Kyiv. In addition, a group led by Denmark and the Netherlands was also assembled to teach Ukrainian aviators how to fly the F-16.

The US’s direct sale of the planes to Ukraine has yet to be verified, but it is expected.

F-16s Not for Current War in Ukraine

US Army General Mark Milley, who serves as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving in France on June 1, announced that preparations had begun to teach the Ukrainian armed forces how to operate the cutting-edge Abrams tanks and negotiations between the US and its western allies to give Ukraine its long-sought-after F-16 fighter fighters have also started.  

General Milley stated that the planes would be part of a security plan to avoid future attacks. Milley suggested that Ukraine must wait some time to create a modern air force.

Milley said the US and its allies are still discussing the particulars of F-16 training, such as the number of personnel in each batch, the flight tactics that will be used, and the sites of the training exercises. 

Oleksiy Reznikov, the Ukrainian minister of defence, also stated that the Ukrainian Armed Forces wouldn’t use F-16 fighter aircraft during their summer counteroffensive.

Reznikov stated in an interview with NHK, in response to a question about the F-16 fighters, that the situation would not alter this summer. Reznikov stated that Ukraine could deploy F-16 aircraft in the autumn or winter.

According to him, it will take time to train Ukrainian pilots. Ukraine must also agree with its partners regarding providing engineers and technical personnel capable of maintaining and repairing these aircraft.

It is expected that the basic instruction for the F-16 would take place over six months. This will mean that they will be able, so to speak, to lift the plane into the air. But in six months, they will not be able to master this system because they have no training fully.

But that’s not the biggest problem. The F-16 must also be maintained and repaired in Ukraine to use this aircraft in operational mode. Planners see a big problem in training technical personnel, which often takes many years of training and, above all, they will lack the experience to fix those planes.

Per flight hour, more than one hundred hours of service are required. This implies that the strategic requirements are not pilots but technology and establishing a logistics system with spare parts, specialised equipment, etc.

Tanks and aircraft manufactured in the US may not see combat in this conflict and instead be used to restore the Ukrainian Armed Forces after the war.


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