Ukraine’s government has been urging the United States to supply F-16s, F/A-18s and even the versatile F-15 to offset Russia’s air advantage in the conflict that began on February 24.
On April 26, representatives from more than 40 nations gathered at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to discuss possible shipments of weapons to Ukraine, including combat aircraft, explained the Air Force Magazine.
The Ukrainian Air Force posted a video on Twitter the same day where a pilot makes an appeal to send F-16, F-16 and “maybe F-18” fighter jets – the post carries the hashtag #ArmUkraineNow.
— Ukrainian Air Force (@KpsZSU) April 26, 2022
Despite the appeal, US Air Force (USAF) officials considered the possibility of providing fighter jets and training to Ukrainian pilots as unfeasible. The most available aircraft is the F-16 Fighting Falcon, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, but it is considered too complicated to be put into service quickly.
US Air Forces Europe Commander General Jeffrey L. Harrigian told Air Force Magazine that “clearly, they want to migrate from Russian capabilities to U.S., but that takes some time.”
Former Ukrainian Air Force commander Serhii Drozdov said a week earlier that he believed the country’s pilots could learn to fly US military jets in two to three weeks. “To effectively protect our territory, Ukraine requires at least one squadron of modern fighter jets, such as American-made F-16s or F-15s,” he said.
The prediction, however, is extremely fast compared to the normal training time. There are up to 21 months of activities on T-6A and T-38 aircraft before heading to the F-16 school at Luke Air Force Base, where the course lasts nine months.
Despite the large stockpile of F-16 and F-15 fighter jets (which the USAF is expected to retire about 200 aircraft in 2023), officials heard by the magazine have said that it is more productive to help Ukrainians with spare parts for Soviet-era aircraft to supply western fighter jets.
“You just don’t throw somebody an F-16 and wish them good luck,” said General Jeffrey L. Harrigian.