Pentagon officials want to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to fight Putin, after Volodymyr Zelensky’s army secured tanks from Germany and the US.
Zelensky seeks fourth generation fighter jets which can reach speeds of more than 1,200mph – adding to nearly $30 billion in military and security assistance since Russia’s invasion on February 24.
The contentious discussion on whether to send the jets to Ukraine has been ongoing as the Biden administration, which has so far rebuffed Kyiv’s requests, must approve the transfers.
Deputy national security adviser Jonathan J. Finer claimed that while there is no set decision, the possibility is not off the table – but top brass are said to be keen.
‘We have not ruled in or out any specific systems,’ Finer said, according to The Telegraph. Any such donation of F-16s would further infuriate Vladimir Putin, and likely further inflame the badly-damaged relationship between Russia and the West.
A US senior defense official added: ‘I don’t think we are opposed.’
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said on Saturday that Ukrainian officials are focused on ‘fast track’ discussions about military weapons, such as war planes.
‘We must show the real picture of this war… [and how] this will reduce security threats to the European continent,’ Podolyak said about western allies, according to the news outlet.
Zelensky is preparing for the US to give in to another one of his requests as experienced pilots have already been identified to fly the fighter jets, Politico reported.
The F-16 fighter will add onto Kyiv’s defense as the jet can fly for more than 500 miles and locate targets in all weather conditions – as well as detect low flying aircrafts in radar ground clutter.
The US has provided military support to Ukraine by deploying devastating missile systems, thousands of vehicles and more than 100 million pieces of ammunition.
Before the invasion, even the idea of supplying lethal aid to Ukraine was highly controversial but Western supplies have since shattered taboo after taboo.
Last week, Ukraine finally convinced Western leaders to part with dozens of sophisticated tanks which they believe will strike a huge blow in Putin’s invasion.
The Biden administration is sending an entire battalion of 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, after a complicated diplomatic dance that has seen Germany announce its own decision to send 14 tanks to Kiev, with more on the way.
The US is proving 31 tanks at the cost of $400 million total. Officials are also providing 500 armored vehicles as part of the package.
President Joe Biden called the M1 Abrams tanks ‘the most capable tanks in the world’ and said they would ‘enhance Ukraine’s capacity to defend its territory to achieve its strategic objectives.’
He added that the Ukrainian military would use the armor to ‘liberate their land.’
The US has offered 16 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems to Ukraine at the cost of $4m per unit, $110,000 per missile. The truck-mounted launchers, developed by Lockheed Martin, can fire six guided missiles up to 50 miles – or further depending on the ammunition used.
High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) have also been deployed to Ukraine costing around $5 million per unit. The HIMARS is recognized as one of the world’s most advanced rocket artillery systems.
It can fire six guided missiles in quick succession. Ukraine has already used the system against Russian forces to devastating effect, targeting both soldiers and infrastructure. A strike on New Year’s Day killed at least 63 Russian troops.
Patriot missiles costing $10 million per launcher and $4 million per missile, Howitzers costing $570,000 per unit and a fleet of Mi-17 helicopters costing $17 million per unit have also been supplied by the US.
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