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18 Jul, 2023 14:41

US believes Western warplanes won’t help Ukraine – WaPo

Kiev’s forces should instead focus on a “combined-arms approach,” American officials have told the newspaper
US believes Western warplanes won’t help Ukraine – WaPo

Even if Ukraine receives modern Western-made jets, they will be of little use because of Russia’s powerful air defenses, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed US officials.

Amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive that Moscow claims has failed to gain any ground, officials in Kiev have stepped up requests for advanced aircraft, particularly US-designed F-16s, arguing they could play a key role in countering Russian air power.

While Kiev’s Western backers have announced a training program for Ukrainian pilots to fly the jets, they have yet to greenlight their delivery.

According to the Washington Post, Ukrainian officials have rebuked their Western counterparts, claiming that if they were in the same situation as Kiev, they would never have pressed ahead with a large-scale offensive without air support.

“So, to say that it [the offensive] is slow or too fast is at least ridiculous to hear from those who have no idea what it is,” the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valery Zaluzhny, told the paper.

However, according to unnamed US officials interviewed by the Post, “Western jets would have little utility” for Ukraine in the current circumstances because of Russia’s “extensive air defenses.” Instead, one source argued that Kiev’s best tactic would be to rely on a “combined-arms approach.” 

Another US official told the paper that while Washington has trained Kiev’s troops how to conduct offensive maneuvers and has provided them with mine-sweeping equipment, they are still struggling to overcome strong Russian anti-tank defenses and drone strikes. “We don’t underestimate or under-appreciate that it’s a very tough situation,” the source added.

Citing F-16 pilots, Bloomberg reported in May that while the jets would definitely help Kiev, they would not be a “game changer” because their radars and missile systems are inferior to modern Russian equipment. That would mean using the warplanes either defensively or as part of high-risk operations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that if the West proceeds with F-16 shipments to Ukraine, the aircraft “will burn” just like other hardware. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that F-16 deliveries would be an escalatory move as they can carry nuclear weapons.