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

Fighter jets are vastly costlier than artillery rounds and floor autos, 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 complicated logistical wants, has been worthwhile, Milley mentioned.

“When you take 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 aren’t any magic weapons in warfare, F-16s usually are not and neither is anything,” 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 rely upon the nations’ capability to assist the challenge, in keeping 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 primary 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 have been questions over who will ship their F-16s or different jets to Kyiv as soon as that coaching is over, and what function the U.S. will play aside from greenlighting the switch of the plane from third-party nations to Ukraine.

The F-16 effort is just now getting underway after President Joe Biden final week mentioned the U.S. would assist 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 assist Ukraine’s deliberate counteroffensive having been delivered, and with growing missile strikes on civilian targets in Kyiv, Ukrainian leaders launched a brand new public strain marketing campaign in latest weeks, insisting that the jets can be invaluable in air protection missions.

Dozens of F-16s are in varied configurations and in numerous states of readiness throughout the U.S. and Europe. As a number of NATO nations purchase extra F-35s, the older jets will turn into obtainable, although they may doubtless want upgrades and a few country-specific applied sciences will must be eliminated, in keeping 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 tough” for the person nations, he added, since a number of of them have bought off their older F-16s already with Washington’s blessing.

The massive 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, nations across the globe have been lining as much as snap up the older F-16s. Whereas there are jets obtainable for Ukraine, a number of huge potential transfers point out there’s loads of urge for food outdoors of Kyiv for the fighter.

Norway just lately bought 32 of its F-16s to Romania, and is ready for Washington’s OK to promote a dozen extra to Draken, a personal firm that contracts with the Pentagon to fly coaching missions.

Denmark has additionally bought its F-16s overseas, most just lately engaged on a cope with Colombia, and is contemplating doing the identical with Argentina, a course of that has caught the attention of Congress.

Throughout a Senate Armed Companies Committee listening to with Air Power 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 believe we must be very vigilant on this,” Kelly warned. “We will 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 means by means of the interagency course of proper now. However I believe there’s 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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