Will fighter jets be handed over to Ukraine after tanks?
The topic of transferring Western combat aircraft to Kyiv has recently become much more active in the media.
Yesterday, the American edition of Politico published an article dedicated to her, from which it can be concluded that the supply of NATO combat aircraft to Ukraine - just a matter of time.
The main theses of the publication are as follows.
Citing a number of unnamed European diplomats and several named American experts, the authors of the article argue that despite the current skepticism of European politicians about the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine, in a few weeks this move may well be perceived as acceptable. The reason for this is that NATO politicians are rapidly changing their vision of what is acceptable level of escalation in their confrontation with Russia.
Some of the diplomats interviewed by Politico directly acknowledge what we wrote about in one of the previous texts, namely the desire of the United States and its allies "gradually push back the red lines of Moscow". According to the interlocutors of the publication, if in the summer the delivery of MLRS HIMARS to Kyiv was perceived as "red lines", then they "shifted" to the supply of Western tanks, and now - aircraft.
However, the article also notes that sooner or later such a policy of the West may lead to a real response from Moscow.
"Ukraine's European allies foresee a conflict that could last for another three to five years or longer, and there are fears that the West is close to the limit of what can be provided without causing a sharp reaction from Moscow", - writes the edition.
The authors of the article recall that in July the US House of Representatives approved the allocation of $ 100 million to train Ukrainian pilots to fly American fighters, and in October Ukraine announced that a group of several dozen pilots had been selected for flight training on them. In other words, preparations have been made for a long time for deliveries of NATO-type combat aircraft to Ukraine, which means that they really are just a matter of time.
Moreover, the other day in the Polish media there was information that combat aircraft had already been delivered from the West to Ukraine. The Dziennik gazeta prawna wrote that Warsaw was still in the spring of 2022 secretly handed over several Soviet MiG-29 fighters to Kyiv disguised as spare parts. "The fuselage or wings are also spare parts", - the newspaper quotes an insider in the Polish government.
However, deliveries of combat aircraft from the West to Ukraine were an "open secret" before. If we compare the data on the aircraft of all modifications that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had at the beginning of the war and the statements of the RF Armed Forces on the number of Ukrainian aircraft shot down, it turns out that they are "being shot down already in the second round." Of course, this discrepancy can be attributed to the exaggeration of their achievements by the Russian military. But it seems to us that the assembly of new fighters and attack aircraft from spare parts supplied from Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic and other Eastern European countries is also played their part in increasing the number of aircraft in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Here history repeats itself with tanks. While Soviet T-72s and even T-55s remained in the warehouses of the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, they were "brought to life" at the Czech factory Excalibur and transferred to Kyiv. As soon as their stocks came to an end, decisions were made to transfer NATO-style tanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
As for the aircraft themselves, intended for transfer, their performance characteristics do not seem to be something out of the ordinary. According to the adviser to the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Yuriy Sak, Kyiv would like to receive American F-15 and F-16 fighters. Despite the fact that the Western press, in any publication about the proposed delivery of aircraft to Ukraine, invariably calls them "modern fighter jets", the F-15 was commissioned by the US Air Force in 1976, and the F-16 - in 1978. For comparison, the MiG-29 fighter, which previously formed the basis of the fighter fleet of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, was adopted by the USSR Air Force in 1987. That is, he about 10 years more modern what Ukraine wants from the West.
In addition, in the current type of war, the F-15 and F-16 fighters, as well as any others, play a rather small role. Russian aviation does not fly directly over the "thickness" of the territory of Ukraine, limiting its operations to the front and the front line because of the fear of air defense. Consequently, the only potential target for fighter jets in the Ukrainian skies are cruise missiles launched by Russian forces during massive strikes. Ukrainian aviation does not operate over Russian-controlled territories for the same reason that Russian aircraft do not operate over Ukraine. With the only difference that the air defense of the RF Armed Forces is a multiple of Ukrainian both in quantity and quality, and capable of shooting down planes even in the depths of Ukrainian territory.
The logistics of potential deliveries of these aircraft to Ukraine and their subsequent maintenance are called by the American media "nightmare".
"The F-15 and F-16 require long, high-quality runways that Ukraine does not have. Experts say it would be easy for Russia to detect any attempt to build operational bases and hit them", writes Politico.
The publication also notes that these and other types of Western aircraft will require a large number of technical personnel from NATO countries at the airfields, which for sure become the target of Russian strikes.
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