On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would not completely rule out the possibility of France sending fighter jets to Ukraine.
During a news conference after Macron met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, Macron was questioned about the possibility of handing over fighter jets to Ukraine as a deterrent against Russia’s invasion of the country. “Nothing is excluded in principle,” he said. But he must not “weaken the French army”, continued Macron, adding: “We will see on a case-by-case basis”.
However, he explained that a decision on the grant would require a request from Ukraine. The weapons provided must not lead to escalation of the conflict and are likely to be used only to support the resistance rather than to attack Russian territory.
The idea of providing Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets has recently surfaced in Dutch politics, but Rutte, like Macron, showed a cautious stance on the supply.
At the same time, US President Joe Biden has said he will not send American fighter planes to Ukraine. “No,” Biden replied to a reporter who asked him if he would send F16 jets to Kyiv, as requested by President Volodymyr Zelensky, to support his war effort against Russia.
Biden had already said on several occasions that planes are not on the table. Last week, for example, he announced that he would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, despite senior US officials earlier saying the heavy vehicles were unsuitable for the country’s military.
However, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki did not rule out that his country could supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets if the decision is coordinated with other NATO countries.
In response to a question from journalists whether Warsaw would agree to transfer F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Poland would coordinate with the allies on this issue. According to Morawiecki, Warsaw coordinates all actions to strengthen the defence capability of Ukraine with NATO partners, in particular, with the United States. This was the case when decisions were made to transfer Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems to Ukraine and create an international coalition to send Leopard tanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
“And just like it was a few months ago with the MiG-29 aircraft, any other air assistance will also be coordinated, implemented, and, possibly, will be transferred jointly with other NATO countries. We will act here in full coordination,” Morawiecki said, as per the Ukrinform agency.
Ukraine wants 24 fighter aircrafts
As part of the first phase of the new military support, the Ukrainian government would prefer to acquire 24 fighter aircraft from its international partners, reported El País on Saturday, quoting Yuriy Ignat, an official representative of the leadership of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (APU). According to the report, Kyiv is interested in F-16 planes.
Practically every kind of armament that was offered by Western nations was subject to intensive negotiations beforehand, and NATO states have not yet given Ukraine any fighter jets or long-range missiles.
In June 2022, the House of Representatives of the United States approved the provision of funding to train Ukrainian pilots to fly American aircraft. According to Ignat, the group that will learn how to fly these aircraft has already been picked, but training has yet to commence. The article states that fighter aircraft training lasts at least six months. Engineers who repair these aircraft must also devote six months to prepare. This indicates that American fighter jets might not be deployed in Ukraine before the final months of 2023.
Ignat said that in addition to the F-16, Kyiv is contemplating the French Rafale and Swedish Gripen aircraft. But, Western Europe is concerned about the potential transfer of combat aircraft to Ukraine, according to the paper. Ignat underlined that the Ukrainian government no longer has the financial means to acquire Rafale fighters. Additionally, the newspaper highlights the high cost per flight hour of French aircraft as well as the expense of Western aircraft.
Additionally, Ukraine must construct a secure network of airfields. Britain’s Joint Royal Institute for Security and Defense Research was cautious about doing so during a crisis. In turn, Ignat confirmed that the authorities are already establishing secret bases, and civilian airports, currently closed for commercial flights, can be repurposed for military objectives.
After Western nations decided to deploy tanks to Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for contemporary combat planes. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba noted that some European colleagues “took into work” the topic of providing Kyiv with F-16 fighters.