What Is the F-16 Fighter Jet and Why Does Ukraine Need It?

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British and Dutch plans to assist Ukraine receive F-16 fighter jets have put america and a few of its closest European allies at odds — but once more — over what weapons the West ought to ship Kyiv to defend in opposition to Russia’s invasion.

Even when the Biden administration overcomes its long-held reluctance to present Ukraine the American-made planes, the F-16 wouldn’t be utilized in fight for months not less than, officers and navy analysts say. However with no sign of ending within the struggle, the F-16 has change into the most recent superior weapon that Ukraine and a few of its backers say it must stave off Russia — each within the present battle and for years to come back.

Here’s a have a look at the F-16 fighter aircraft, why Ukraine needs it and why the Biden administration is hesitant.

First flown in 1976, the F-16 “Combating Falcon” is a supersonic fighter jet utilized by militaries in 25 nations for air-to-air fight and air-to-ground strikes. It has flown in American conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, the Persian Gulf and on homeland protection missions in U.S. airspace.

The F-16 is constructed by the American protection contractor Lockheed Martin and producers in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway — 4 nations {that a} senior Ukrainian official says have quietly signaled they’re prepared to switch a few of their F-16s to Kyiv.

It’s broadly thought of versatile, light-weight and cost-effective — with a price ticket of as much as $63 million, relying on the mannequin, in response to some estimates. There are roughly 3,000 at the moment in lively navy service worldwide, together with lots of within the U.S. Air Power and Navy.

The F-16 has each offensive and defensive capabilities. Within the quick time period, Ukrainian officers say F-16s and different superior Western fighter jets are wanted to boost their air defenses, with Kyiv’s current ground-launched programs being exhausted by fixed barrages of Russian missiles. They are often launched inside minutes and geared up to shoot down incoming missiles and enemy plane.

With out trendy fighter jets, “no air protection system might be excellent,” President Volodymyr Zelensky informed European leaders gathered at a summit in Reykjavik this week.

Past the present battle, many officers throughout Europe and in america imagine the F-16 could possibly be a key deterrent to future aggression in opposition to Ukraine by Russia’s vastly superior air drive.

Coaching Ukraine’s pilots to fly Western jets will take months, and the Biden administration says it’s higher to ship weapons that can assist Ukraine now in its coming counteroffensive in opposition to Russia — a battle that many within the West hope might be a turning level within the struggle. A senior American official mentioned this week that the price of sending F-16s would take in a lot of an already dwindling pot of U.S. struggle funding.

At a Home listening to final month, Celeste A. Wallander, an assistant secretary of protection, mentioned that the administration is targeted on Ukraine’s navy wants but additionally on what’s sensible. “There may be additionally a timing challenge: What do they require proper now, which is what we’ve been targeted on for the battles they’re dealing with, what can we ship that might be well timed and efficient?” she mentioned.

She mentioned trendy Western jet fighters, like F-16s, are “about eighth on the listing” of priorities.

Most likely honest to excessive, in response to officers and navy analysts. The Biden administration has beforehand mentioned no to a number of forms of superior weapons for Ukraine — together with HIMARS missile launchers, Abrams tanks and Patriot missiles — solely to reverse itself underneath strain from European allies and Congress.

Beneath what analysts describe because the principally seemingly state of affairs, america would challenge re-export licenses to different nations which have F-16s, permitting them to switch their jets to Ukraine. Given the prices of every jet, it’s much less seemingly that america would ship its personal F-16s to Ukraine, although it’s not inconceivable.

If Western allies intend to improve Ukraine’s aged Soviet-era air fleet with extra trendy jets, giving it F-16s is “the almost certainly final result,” mentioned Douglas Barrie, an navy aerospace skilled on the Worldwide Institute for Strategic Research in London.

He additionally mentioned it might be unlikely for Britain, with its “particular relationship” with America, to push forward with making an attempt to offer F-16s if the Biden administration was not not less than considerably on board: “It could be stunning, to place it mildly,” he mentioned.

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