Already trained, not yet fighter jets: Why delivery of F-16s to Ukraine seems only a matter of time

Promises came out of nowhere. After British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already addressed the pledge, French President Emmanuel Macron has also joined the pledge. France and the United Kingdom provide combat aircraft training to Ukrainian pilots. Small problem, the two countries do not have the F-16s that Zelensky is hoping for.

Decisive vote USA

“It makes me laugh a bit,” says defense expert Patrick Boulder of the Center for Strategic Studies (HCSS) in The Hague. “France and the UK can provide training, but what kind of training?”

No F-16s will be delivered at this time, Boulder says. “It first requires permission from the United States.” As a producer and supplier of spare parts, America has a decisive say. “As long as President Joe Biden does not agree, Ukraine will have to wait. But when you hear ‘yes’ from the United States, of course it helps if the pilots can actually fly the F-16s. It is better to practice in progress than it is now.” “.

Basic combat aircraft

The F-16s are the key missing piece of the puzzle, as Ukraine has previously received artillery, anti-aircraft systems and tanks. According to Zelensky, Western warplanes are needed to defeat Russia, both at the front and behind. Fighter aircraft can only attack behind the front line. They must also provide support to the ground forces.

Thus, training on F-16s on French or British soil is not an option for Ukrainian pilots at the moment. But in what? “The pilots may have already learned skills in other aircraft,” says defense specialist Peter Wijinga, also of HCSS. “This way they already have the basics in their pocket when Western hardware is already available. Although they still have to get used to it.”

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Then the question remains: Why did Macron and Snack promise training, while they say not to send planes? President Mark Rutte asked Zelensky for patience two weeks ago during a visit to the Netherlands. The West will not yet be ready to supply combat aircraft.

The relationship is at stake

“But they’ll get there,” Boulder says. “The tank delivery was also difficult at first. In the end it all worked out. This will also be the case with the F-16s.” And Wijninga is also assertive. The promise of a workout increases the pressure to actually deliver. “If you don’t, the relationship with Ukraine will be in jeopardy.”

When the F-16s will be delivered is still speculation. Despite the answer “yes” from America, it may take a long time before they actually fly over Ukraine. Bolder begins with a summary: “The maintenance crew must also be prepared first.” “And what about the runways? They should be longer, smoother, and of better quality. And there should be no stones on them. But the training of the pilots has been pledged anyway. So the first staffing is the moment it actually starts. It’s probably already done.”

Sophie Baker

"Award-winning music trailblazer. Gamer. Lifelong alcohol enthusiast. Thinker. Passionate analyst."

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