The possibility of sending F16 fighter jets to Ukraine was not even on the table at Tuesday’s NATO meeting in Brussels, Estonia’s defense minister has told Kyiv Post.
Hanno Pevkur said: “It is not on the table today.” Referring to ongoing programs to provide Ukrainian troops with training on other weapons systems such as Leopard and Challenger tanks, he added: “At this moment, we are more concentrated on how we can increase the number of trained people.”
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Kyiv Post after a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in NATO headquarters in Brussels, he added: "One thing that we see… is that when we are giving something, we are not only giving the assets or equipment, we need to give capabilities.”
Ukraine’s NATO allies are currently focused on making sure troops are in a position to make full use of the recently pledged heavy tanks that are headed to Ukraine, yet President Zelensky has already been on a diplomatic push for fighter jets.
On a rare trip abroad last week he made a speech in Britain’s historic Westminster Hall where he said: "I appeal to you and the world... for combat aircrafts for Ukraine, wings for freedom.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak offered to train Ukrainian fighter pilots and marines, on top of an existing UK program that has prepared 10,000 troops for battle.
It’s a good time to manufacture 155mm howitzer rounds.
But he and others have stressed that any pilot training program and the establishment of the logistics and supply networks needed to support any fighter jets sent to Ukraine would take “months if not years”.
Ukraine currently has a small air force comprised of Soviet jets that need to be replenished.
Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat said F-16s would be the best option for a multi-role fighter to replace the country's shrinking fleet of warplanes.
According to Politico, a group of military officials is “quietly pushing” the Pentagon to approve sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian missile and drone attacks.
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Oleksiy Bobrovnikov is an award-winning journalist who used to write about a widespread smuggling and money laundering network in the unstable regions of eastern Ukraine. He has worked as a war correspondent in the Donbass region and as an investigative reporter covering the so-called “grey zone” – a haven for smugglers between the Russian-occupied territories and government-controlled Ukraine.