F-16s won’t be a ‘magic weapon’ for Ukraine, Milley warns

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lithuania nato 87338.jpg

Fighter jets are vastly dearer than artillery rounds and floor automobiles, which Western allies have centered on flooding into Ukraine to assist push Russian forces again within the south. Spending the cash on these near-term weapons, versus costly warplanes with their advanced logistical wants, has been worthwhile, Milley mentioned.

“In case you have a look at the F-16, 10 F-16s [cost] a billion {dollars}, the sustainment value one other billion {dollars}, so that you’re speaking about $2 billion for 10 plane,” Milley mentioned, including that if the planes had been despatched sooner, they might have eaten up the funding for these different capabilities which have put Ukraine on their entrance foot.

“There are not any magic weapons in conflict, F-16s will not be and neither is the rest,” he mentioned.

Additionally Thursday, Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin introduced that Denmark and the Netherlands are taking the lead within the joint coalition to coach Ukrainian pilots on trendy fighter jets. He mentioned Norway, Belgium, Poland and Portugal have additionally pledged to participate within the coaching.

The coalition plans to coach roughly 20 Ukrainian pilots initially, though the precise quantity will depend upon the international locations’ capability to help the undertaking, in line with a UK authorities spokesperson, who was granted anonymity to debate particulars forward of an announcement.

Ukraine would require a pipeline of pilots to study the basics of flying who can then transfer as much as jets, the spokesperson mentioned. To that finish, the primary stage of instruction will concentrate on ground-based fundamental coaching of Ukrainian pilots, who will then be able to study particular airframes, such because the F-16 and others. The F-16 coaching will happen at a web site in Europe, Protection Division officers have mentioned.

Left unanswered had been questions over who will ship their F-16s or different jets to Kyiv as soon as that coaching is over, and what position the U.S. will play apart from greenlighting the switch of the plane from third-party international locations to Ukraine.

The F-16 effort is just now getting underway after President Joe Biden final week mentioned the U.S. would help coaching Ukrainians on the plane, a dramatic reversal from the administration’s earlier refusal to handle the problem, saying it was a decrease precedence.

However with a lot of the help meant to help Ukraine’s deliberate counteroffensive having been delivered, and with rising missile strikes on civilian targets in Kyiv, Ukrainian leaders launched a brand new public strain marketing campaign in current weeks, insisting that the jets could be invaluable in air protection missions.

Dozens of F-16s are in numerous configurations and in numerous states of readiness throughout the U.S. and Europe. As a number of NATO international locations purchase extra F-35s, the older jets will develop into out there, although they are going to probably want upgrades and a few country-specific applied sciences will must be eliminated, in line with R. Clarke Cooper, a former head of Political-Navy Affairs on the State Division and now a nonresident senior fellow on the Atlantic Council.

“Primarily based on precedent it shouldn’t be too troublesome” for the person international locations, he added, since a number of of them have offered off their older F-16s already with Washington’s blessing.

The large query now for the NATO alliance is who has transferable planes of their squadrons or hangars that may be despatched to Ukraine.

As fleets age and F-35s start arriving in higher numbers, international locations across the globe have been lining as much as snap up the older F-16s. Whereas there are jets out there for Ukraine, a number of huge potential transfers point out there’s loads of urge for food exterior of Kyiv for the fighter.

Norway not too long ago offered 32 of its F-16s to Romania, and is ready for Washington’s OK to promote a dozen extra to Draken, a non-public firm that contracts with the Pentagon to fly coaching missions.

Denmark has additionally offered its F-16s overseas, most not too long ago engaged on a take care of Colombia, and is contemplating doing the identical with Argentina, a course of that has caught the attention of Congress.

Throughout a Senate Armed Providers Committee listening to with Air Drive leaders this month, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) mentioned there’s a hazard of Argentina shopping for Chinese language fighter planes if the U.S. doesn’t approve the potential Danish sale of F-16s.

“I feel we must be very vigilant on this,” Kelly warned. “We are able to counter their pitch right here by facilitating the switch of Danish F-16s to Argentina. That’s a chance. This isn’t only a switch of plane. It has actual geopolitical and strategic significance.”

Kendall replied he was conscious of the problem and “it’s working its manner by way of the interagency course of proper now. However I feel there may be an understanding of the significance of it for the explanations that you just mentioned.”

The decades-old planes, whereas costly, are in excessive demand across the globe.

“The F-16 stays a workhorse,” Cooper mentioned. “Not just for NATO however globally, so it’s not going wherever anytime quickly.”

Joe Gould and Lara Seligman contributed to this report.


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