The US National Security Agency supports the provision of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine
HIROSHIMA, May 20 (IANS) US National Security Adviser (NSA) Jake Sullivan said Washington would support the provision of advanced combat aircraft, including F-16s, to Ukraine, as well as training pilots in the war-torn country on how to fly them. .
At a news conference here on Friday, Sullivan said President Joe Biden “informed his G7 counterparts” of the move at the bloc summit in the Japanese city earlier in the day, the BBC reported.
“Over the past few months, we and our allies and partners have been really focused on providing Ukraine with the weapons systems and training it needs to conduct offensive operations this spring and summer. We have delivered on what we promised.
We have now turned to discussions about improving the Ukrainian Air Force as part of our long-term commitment to the self-defense of Ukraine. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) quoted the National Security Agency as saying: With the start of training in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when the aircraft will be delivered, who will deliver them, and how many.
Ukraine has repeatedly pressured its Western allies to provide aircraft to help in its fight against Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed what he described as a “historic decision,” adding that he looked forward to “discussing the practical implementation” of the plan at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, where he will arrive on Sunday.
The development comes months after Biden said in February that he was “ruling out now” sending advanced fighters to Ukraine.
But during Friday’s news conference, Sullivan told reporters that the US had provided weapons to Kiev where they were needed on the battlefield, and that the decision to begin supplying advanced fighters to Ukraine indicated that the conflict had entered a new phase, reports the BBC.
“We have now given everything we said we would do, so we put the Ukrainians in a position to make progress on the battlefield by counterattacking.
“We have reached a moment where it is time to look at the path, to talk about what Ukraine will need as part of a future force to defend against Russian aggression,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark welcomed Washington’s move.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “The UK will work with the USA, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to provide Ukraine with the combat air capabilities it needs.”
The United Kingdom does not have any F-16s in its air force itself.
Denmark has also announced that it will now be able to support the training of pilots, but has not confirmed whether it will send any aircraft to Ukraine.
The Danish Air Force has 40 F-16s, of which about 30 are operational.
When Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, Ukraine was believed to have around 120 combat-capable aircraft—mainly consisting of aging Soviet-era MiG-29s and Su-27s.
But officials say they need as many as 200 planes to match Moscow’s air force – which is believed to be five or six times larger than Kiev’s.
Earlier this year, some Eastern European countries sent Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine.