Ukraine says it will now push for Western fourth-generation fighter jets such as the American F-16 after securing dozens of high-end battle tanks from NATO allies.
Ukraine won a huge boost for its troops as the United States and Germany announced plans to provide heavy tanks for Kyiv on Wednesday.
“The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets,” said Yuriy Sak, who advises defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov.
“If we get them the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense … It’s not just F-16s, fourth-generation aircraft, this is what we want.”
Ukraine’s air force has a fleet of ageing Soviet-era fighter jets that came off the assembly line before Kyiv even declared independence more than 31 years ago. The warplanes are used for intercept missions and to attack Russian positions.
Western military support has been vital for Kyiv and has rapidly evolved during the war. Before the Russian invasion, even the idea of supplying lethal aid to Ukraine was highly controversial, but Western supplies have since shattered taboo after taboo.
“They didn’t want to give us heavy artillery, then they did. They didn’t want to give us HIMARS 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,” Sak said.
Not a chance
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there was no chance of fighter jets being sent to Ukraine.
“I made it clear very early on that we are not talking about combat aircraft, and I am doing the same here,” he said in the Bundestag.
Scholz added, “We will not send ground troops under any circumstances. I have said there will be no direct involvement of NATO soldiers in the Ukraine war. That has not been the case so far and that will not be the case in the future. And everyone can rely on that.”
Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia last February, has also said it wants to receive long-range missiles from the West.
Moscow reacted furiously on Wednesday after Germany approved the delivery to Ukraine of Leopard 2 tanks, the workhorse of armies across Europe, a decision certain to gird Ukraine’s offensive power.
Germany has agreed to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, with the US also expected to confirm the supply of M1 Abrams vehicles. But what’s so vital about tanks?
We asked a Ukrainian officer on the front line, to explain ⤵️