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

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

Even if the Biden administration overcomes its long-held reluctance to provide Ukraine the American-made planes, the F-16 wouldn’t be utilized in fight for months at the earliest, officers and army analysts say. But with no finish to the warfare in sight, the F-16 has turn out to be the newest superior weapon that Ukraine and a few of its backers say it must stave off Russia — each in the present battle and for years to return.

Here is a have a look at the F-16, why Ukraine needs it and why the Biden administration is hesitant to provide it.

First flown in 1976, the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” is a supersonic fighter jet utilized by militaries in 25 countries 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 international locations {that a} senior Ukrainian official says have quietly signaled they’re prepared to switch a few of their F-16s to Kyiv.

It is widely considered versatile, light-weight and cost-effective — with a price ticket of up to $63 million, relying on the mannequin, in accordance with some estimates. There are roughly 3,000 at present in lively army service worldwide, together with lots of in the U.S. Air Force and Navy.

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

Without fashionable fighter jets, “no air defense system will be perfect,” President Volodymyr Zelensky told European leaders gathered at a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, this week.

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

Training 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 in its coming counteroffensive towards Russia — a battle that many in the West hope will probably be a turning level in the warfare. A senior American official mentioned this week that the price of sending F-16s would take up a lot of an already dwindling pot of U.S. warfare funding.

At a House listening to final month, Celeste A. Wallander, an assistant secretary of protection, mentioned that the administration was centered on Ukraine’s army wants but additionally on what was sensible. “What do they require right now, which is what we’ve been focused on for the battles they are facing,” she mentioned. “What can we deliver that will be timely and effective?”

She mentioned that fashionable Western jet fighters, like F-16s, have been “about eighth on the list” of priorities.

Probably truthful to high, in accordance with officers and army analysts. The Biden administration has beforehand mentioned no to a number of kinds of superior weapons for Ukraine — together with HIMARS missile launchers, Abrams tanks and Patriot missiles — solely to reverse itself underneath pressure from European allies and Congress.

Under what analysts describe as the largely probably situation, the United States would situation re-export licenses to different international locations which have F-16s, permitting them to switch their jets to Ukraine. Given the prices of every jet, it’s much less probably that the United States would ship its personal F-16s to Ukraine, although it isn’t unimaginable.

If Western allies intend to improve Ukraine’s aged Soviet-era air fleet with extra fashionable jets, giving the nation F-16s is “the most likely outcome,” mentioned Douglas Barrie, a army aerospace professional at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

He additionally mentioned it could be unlikely for Britain, with its “special relationship” with America, to push forward with attempting to offer F-16s if the Biden administration was not at the least considerably on board. “It would be surprising, to put it mildly,” he mentioned.

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