Pressure has mounted from Ukraine to obtain Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters, but the United States remains reticent to supply the Western aircraft.
In an interview with journalists, President Joe Biden responded with a resounding “no” on the possibility of handing over the fighter jets to the Ukrainian Air Force, as requested by Volodymyr Zelenskiy for some time.
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Ukraine has come under increasing attacks from Russian forces on the country’s eastern flank and argues that it can only counter the onslaught with more Western weaponry.
Last week, Germany and the US agreed to hand over a few dozen heavy tanks to the Ukrainian army, in an unprecedented military escalation.
F-16 from Netherlands and Poland
The F-16 is considered one of the best fighters available to Ukraine. The C and D versions are operated by the Netherlands and Poland, which are already willing to transfer their aircraft to the country, while reinforcing their air defense with the most advanced F-35 Lightining II.
The Ukrainian military says it will take six months to complete combat training on Western fighters like the F-16.
So far, the Ukrainian Air Force would have managed to replace some Soviet-era aircraft such as the MiG-29, which were passed on by NATO allied countries, but the available quantity is very small, in addition to being aircraft with outdated systems and weapons.
The US, for its part, fears that sending Western fighter jets could draw NATO into the conflict and increase the risk of a direct war with Russia.