Missing The ‘Thunder’! US warplanes proposed for Ukraine could be sitting ducks for Russian missiles
The US House of Representatives approved a large budget for training Ukrainian pilots, followed by the suggestion that Ukraine get a non-Russian fighter jet. On several combat aircraft under consideration, the United States is now seriously considering the transfer of American combat aircraft to Ukraine.
“There is US [fighter jets], there is the Gripen from Sweden, there is the Eurofighter, there is the Rafale. So there are a number of different platforms that could go to Ukraine. It will be something un-Russian, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown said June 20 at the Aspen Security Forum’s annual conference.
In what could hint at a potential transfer of US fighter jets, White House spokesman John Kirby Told told reporters on July 21 that the United States was exploring the possibility of sending American-made fighter jets to Ukraine.
However, Kirby added a precursor to the potential transfer. The White House spokesperson told a briefing that while the Biden administration conducted preliminary research into the viability of sending the jets to Ukraine, action would not be taken immediately.
This announcement comes even as Ukraine asks NATO states to provide modern and tactical fighter jets to defend the country against the powerful Russian air force.
The invading troops fielded their best combat aircraft, including the Su-30, Su-34 and Su-35, to name a few. In contrast, the Ukrainian Air Force flew Mig-29s, Su-25s and Su-27s.
At a virtual Ukrainian Defense Contact Group conference chaired by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov discussed Ukraine’s needs on the battlefield.
US Air Force officials said earlier that talks had started about whether Ukraine could gain access to Western aircraft such as older A-10s. However, Ukraine claims that the slower aircraft will not fulfill the urgently required set of missions.
According to comments by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on July 20, Ukraine needs “fast and adaptable” fighter jets like the F-16 – not ground-based defense systems stationary like the US A-10 fleet which is about to withdraw – to target Russian locations on its territory.
Kendall said, “The venerable A-10…isn’t a system we’ll need against the types of opponents we’re most concerned about right now.” The Air Force had requested approval to retire 21 A-10 Warthogs in the budget request for the Financial year 2023.
Not the A-10, please!
The Ukrainian Air Force began the current combat at a substantial disadvantage to Russia. Kyiv’s insufficient air power has been attributed to its aging fleet of fighter jets, a lack of pilots and air bases extremely vulnerable to missile attacks.
While Russian fighter jets are equipped with modern “fire and forget” missiles, Ukrainian aircraft use semi-active missiles that require continuous radar guidance.
This constantly made flying these fighter jets even more dangerous. Ukrainian Air Force officers even begged their allies to send them Western fighter jets with superior missiles.
For some reason, there has been a debate in the United States about the possibility of transferring the archaic but combat-hardened A-10 fighter jet to Ukraine. One of the most iconic aircraft in the US Air Force fleet is the A-10 Thunderbolt, also known as the “Warthog”.
The A-10 was developed to destroy rows of Soviet tanks and saw action in most post-Cold War American battles from the Balkans to Afghanistan.
A recent Pentagon Contract making new wing sets ensures that a respectable number of aircraft will continue to fly for several years to come, despite doubts about the A-10’s ability to survive on modern battlefields.
However, Ukraine remains reluctant to the idea. Sak said the Ukrainian Air Force had carefully considered the benefits of the A-10, particularly how it supported ground operations in Iraq by being able to target tank columns and other equipment.
They’re a fantastic support tool that’s also incredibly lethal. And when encountering A-10s, the enemy cannot hide even behind tank armor, he added. But they are also slow at the same time. Additionally, to operate them effectively, they must be extremely exposed to enemy air defense.
The adviser suggested that Russian Buk missile systems and contemporary Russian MiGs would find it simple to hit the A-10s.
Additionally, Reznikov still urges the United States and its alliance partners to fund pilot training. Members of Congress, who have recently stepped up their pressure on the Biden administration, support the effort.
An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that has been approved by the House calls for $100 million for the training of Ukrainian pilots on US planes. The type of aircraft is not mentioned in the legislation.
Western Jets to Ukraine
In a video posted on social media on April 26, Colonel Yuri Bulavka, Su-27 pilot, demand American-built F-15, F-16, or F-18 planes for his Air Force to help him and his fellow pilots compete with the new Russian Su-30s and Su-35s .
As the months passed, the calls for modern Western fighter jets only intensified.
However, Ukraine would not want the archaic and almost retired A-10 aircraft. Yuriy Sak, adviser to the Ukrainian defense minister, recently said Air Force Magazine that they have long requested combat aircraft from their partners. We need western-caliber fighter jets, western-style fighter jets are needed, he added.
Sak cited the US decision to provide 12 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), with US Secretary of Defense Austin promising four more during the contact group meeting as an example. These HIMARS systems, according to Sak, are a game-changer.
Currently, the tasks of the Ukrainian Air Force include defending the country’s skies against hostile aircraft, drones and missiles, as well as providing air support to ground forces to attack Russian troops and combat vehicles such as armored vehicles, artillery and tanks.
The defense adviser added that given the current needs of the Ukrainian Air Force, this kind of leads us to the conclusion that the most ideal solution would be something fast and versatile, and that the F -16 Americans are fast and versatile.
According For John Venable, a former F-16 pilot who now works for the Heritage Foundation, the F-16C/D would be a superior choice because of how quickly it can be adopted. 47 F-16C/Ds are currently being retired by the US Air Force, in accordance with a plan approved by Congress for the fiscal year 2022 budget.
Unlike other options that could take longer, such as resuscitating old planes from the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base cemetery that would need to be restored to flying condition, or waiting for the 21 A-10s that will be probably removed once. FY23 Defense Policy Bill is approved, meaning surplus flyable F-16s will soon be available for Ukraine.
However, that being said, the ultimate decision rests with US lawmakers. With support growing, the US assertion that it wants to give Ukraine what it needs could be a positive undertaking.