Ukraine May Be Flying US F-16s Before Long

The West relented on supplying tanks, and fighter jets may be next
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2023 11:50 AM CST
West Relented on Tanks for Ukraine. Jets May Be Next
A formation of US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

After much delay and consternation, the US and Germany agreed to give Ukraine heavy tanks in its fight against Russia. Expect a similar scenario to play out over fighter jets, according to reports at Politico, Reuters, and the UK Financial Times. "The next natural step would be fighters," an unnamed diplomat from a northern European country tells Politico. Ukraine is currently using relatively ancient Soviet-era jets, and they've been asking the US and other Western allies for an upgrade. As of now, the answer is no. But, the stories say that talks are already underway in earnest. Ukraine is particularly interested in US-made F-16s, and the FT reports that manufacturer Lockheed Martin is prepared to meet demand.

"They didn't want to give us heavy artillery, then they did," Ukraine defense adviser Yuriy Sak tells Reuters. "They didn't want to give us HIMARS [rocket launcher] systems, then they did. They didn't want to give us tanks, now they're giving us tanks. Apart from nuclear weapons, there is nothing left that we will not get." The Politico story suggests that Western nations are wary of provoking a massive, perhaps even nuclear, response from Vladimir Putin, and thus have taken a gradual approach to supplying major weaponry and equipment. As one European envoy puts it: "Fighters are completely unconceivable today, but we might have this discussion in two, three weeks." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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