Defense Expert Says Ukraine Needed Fighter Jets Last Year

Radosaw Sikorski, who served as defense minister in Warsaw from 2005 to 2007 and as foreign minister from 2007 to 2014, said the time to provide Ukraine with Western-made fourth-generation planes was a year ago.

Ukraine has to recover control of its airspace, and fighter planes would be highly beneficial in that endeavor, Sikorski said.

As Kyiv persists in pushing back Russian soldiers in eastern and southern Ukraine, the country’s armed forces needed cutting-edge F-16 fighter planes last year, according to Poland’s former defense and foreign minister.

Ukraine’s air force is primarily Soviet-era; therefore, it has been lobbying its Western friends for modern fighter planes like the F-16 built in the United States.

The war-torn Ukraine has received substantial military help from countries like the United States, including main battle tanks. However, the sending of fighter planes to Ukraine has not been agreed upon. Poland has been a staunch ally of Ukraine, providing the country with the MiG-29 fighter fighters it now operates. Slovakia has made contributions as well.

Over the last few months, a shift in sentiment has resulted in over a dozen NATO countries agreeing to join a fighter aircraft coalition and train Ukrainian pilots in F-16s.

Officials and analysts agree that the decision to deliver the aircraft signals a long-term commitment to equipping Ukraine’s air force. It’s a pricey venture since it needs investing in groundwork for sophisticated aircraft operations.

The timeline for Ukraine to get F-16s is still unclear. They will not make it in time to help Kyiv in its current summer counteroffensive, which is a consensus among experts.

F-16s may make it to Ukraine before the end of the year, as was hinted at earlier this month by National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.

Ukraine will get F-16s by the end of March 2024, according to Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

In the following weeks, Ukrainian pilots will begin F-16 training in Denmark before moving on to a facility in Romania.

In May, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the United States would work with its partners to determine when and how many aircraft would be sent for training.