Should the U.S. send 42 A-10 Warthog to Ukraine instead of a boneyard?

“Give us the tools, and we will finish the job,“ spoke U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill in February 1941.

U.S. engagement in Ukraine increased dramatically following the Euromaidan Revolution – the wave of protests in late 2013 and 2014 that led to the ouster of then-President Viktor Yanukovych.

Conflict broke out days later, when Russia annexed Crimea, a region in southern Ukraine, and began supporting separatist militias in the eastern part of the country. The U.S has provided more than $2.7 billion in security assistance since then. Most of this money has funded weapons, training and intelligence cooperation to help Ukraine fight these militias. More than 14,000 Ukrainians were killed between 2014 and 2021.

Ukraine has also received roughly $418 million annually since 2014 from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. Some of this is officially “non-lethal assistance,” but it includes items such as body armor, helmets, vehicles, heavy engineering equipment and patrol boats that directly support U.S. and Ukrainian security objectives. In addition, an average of more than $350 million in U.S. humanitarian aid has flowed to Ukraine annually since 2014. This includes essential relief items such as blankets and food vouchers, hygiene supplies for health centers, training for health care workers, and structural repairs to homes destroyed by conflict.

Many countries are now offering Ukraine military assistance, including $70 million from Australia and $500 million in weapons from the European Union.

Whether and how this aid will be delivered, given ongoing Russian military operations, is unclear. Military analysts emphasize that Ukraine’s strategy relies on urban warfare and protracted war of attrition. While much of the pledged military assistance supports this strategy, arms will be difficult to get into besieged cities such as Kharkiv and Kyiv.

Ukraine’s survival also requires that Ukrainians abroad continue to support their relatives through remittances while the economy remains disrupted.

“Give us the tools, and we will finish the job”

“Give us the tools, and we will finish the job,“ spoke U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill in February 1941. Following this powerful speech, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed and Congress approved the lend-lease program. This provided the U.K. equipment and access to United States production capacity. This action was essential to stopping the Nazi advances.

History often repeats itself. Now, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is making the same plea for equipment necessary to stop the advance of the autocratic Russian Army. Now is the time for another lend-lease program supporting Ukraine.

Ukraine already received most of the weapons from $800 million military assistance package announced in December 2021. On Feb. 26, 2022, President Joe Biden announced an additional $350 million in U.S. weapons, on top of the U.S.-provided Stinger anti-aircraft weapons and Javelin missile systems being transferred from U.S. authorization Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Ukraine. The U.S. has also reportedly redirected Mi-17 helicopters intended initially for Afghanistan.

So far, the UK, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic have responded to the call to donate arms to Ukraine.

A-10 Warthog ground-attack aircraft

Zelenskyy has requested weapons and support in line with Churchill’s philosophy. Ukrainian soldiers have proved their courage and bravery. One more step could be decisive: the transfer of three squadrons of A-10 aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force.

The Ukrainian armed forces proved to adapt to the new western weapons system. Experts believe that the Ukrainian air force can master the A-10 Warthog in the shortest possible timeframe and use it in the fight to liberate Eastern Donbas and Mariupol.

Despite calls from former U.S. defense officials for the Air Force to transfer some of its A-10 Warthog attack aircraft to Ukraine, there are no current plans for the service to give up its tank-busting planes, the Air Force’s top leaders said today.

“I’m not aware of any current plan, or even any discussion of a current plan to field or provide A-10s to the Ukrainians,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said during a roundtable with reporters today at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium.

Asked during a later roundtable, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown gave a similar answer.

“I’m not aware of any discussions or plans inside the United States Air Force to provide A-10s to Ukraine,” he said. Although he did not speak specifically about Ukraine’s ability to absorb the A-10, he added that it would take time to “train and get ready to do” a mission for any air force receiving new capabilities.

One obvious problem with the idea of the Air Force transferring its A-10s to Ukraine is that it is required by law to retain all 281 Warthogs currently in its inventory. Although the service had hoped to send 42 A-10s to the boneyard this fiscal year, the FY22 NDAA last year included language prohibiting any reductions.

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