Written by Kevin McGrath
Edited by Michele Puggia
Supervised by Mariana Fagotti
International governments have pledged military assistance for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February of 2022. This support has yet again grown with the UK and Netherlands vowing to form an “International Coalition” with the express purpose of providing training and F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine (Kent et al., 2023, para. 1). Since the Russian invasion last February, the US has given $19.3 billion in aid, the UK £2.3 billion, and the EU as a coalition have transferred €3.1 million, most of which is in the form of lethal platforms and weapons (Mills & Curtis, 2023, p. 4). The Western attitude of supporting Ukraine militarily has been definitive and unwavering and has been bolstered yet again through the promise of F-16 fighter jets among other air combat weapons. Joe Biden approved a pilot training programme at the most recent G7 summit in Japan (Lendon, 2023). British and Dutch Prime Ministers Rishi Sunak and Mark Rutte agreed to kickstart this International Coalition, determined to provide everything from “Training to procuring F-16 fighter Jets” (The Guardian, 2023, para. 2). This oath of support comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited several Western nations on a diplomatic hunt for support specifically focused on improving the Ukrainian air-force, including an unannounced visit to Rishi Sunak (The Guardian, 2023).
Why would F-16s help Ukraine? The F-16 is recognised worldwide for its exceptional performance and combat capabilities, despite being a “relatively low-cost” jet first produced in the late 1970s (Lendon, 2023, para 5). Currently, the Ukrainian air combat capabilities are limited due to their outdated aircrafts, most of which are dated to Soviet times and have not had mid-life upgrades which improve technology on board. The F-16’s advanced avionics, superior manoeuvrability, and proven air-to-air and ground capabilities make it a formidable asset for Ukraine’s defence forces in their struggle with Russia. Additionally, the F-16’s compatibility with NATO standards ensures interoperability with other member nations, further enhancing their relationship with the member states, and allowing for those training programmes promised to be effective (Lendon, 2023).
The time needed to train a Ukrainian pilot to fly an F-16 is said to be around three months, however, the spanner in the works is the time necessary to train maintenance personnel which can be “months or years” (Lendon, 2023, para. 15). It is yet to be seen whether these formidable fighter jets are feasible for Ukraine in their quest to “control the sky”, a desire Zelensky has made unambiguous in past weeks (The Guardian, 2023, para. 7). His recent diplomatic mission seems to have paid off and strengthened Western military support for Ukraine.
The Guardian. (2023, May 16). UK and Netherlands agree “international coalition” to help Ukraine procure F-16 jets. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/may/16/uk-and-netherlands-agree-international-coalition-to-help-ukraine-with-f-16-jets.
Kent, L., Kesaieva, J., & Lendon, B. (2023, May 17). UK, Netherlands are working to procure F-16 fighters for Ukraine, downing street says. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/05/16/europe/uk-netherlands-ukraine-f-16-fighters-intl-hnk/index.html.
Lendon, B. (2023, May 22). F-16s for Ukraine: Why Kyiv would still face big hurdles in using the US-made fighter jets. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/05/22/europe/f-16-jets-ukraine-analysis-intl-hnk-ml/index.html.
Mills, C., & Curtis, J. (2023). Military assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. House of Commons Library Research Briefings, (9477). https://www.brexitinfo.cz/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/CBP-9477.pdf.