Biden set to allow F-16 exports to Ukraine
US President Joe Biden is allowing European countries to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine and will train Ukrainian pilots to fly them amid questions about whether the move will use up too many of Kyiv’s scarce resources.
Washington had been reluctant to allow licences to European countries to re-export F-16 jets to Ukraine. But Biden is poised to make the announcement at the G7 summit in Japan.
Fighter jets are the key area where Russia has a significant advantage, which would probably be instantly tipped in Kyiv’s favour with the delivery of western fighter jets.
The F-16, built by the US defence contractor Lockheed Martin, is a multi-role aircraft with internal M61 Vulcan cannon and 11 options for mounting weapons and other equipment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been calling for fighter jets for months, telling the UK parliament in February: “We have freedom, give us wings to protect it.”
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, have responded to Zelensky’s requests and London has announced that Ukrainian pilots can be trained in Britain.
The UK, however, has no F-16s. Last year London made a token gesture of promising to send Challenger tanks to Ukraine which allowed other European nations to make similar promises with far more strategically important German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
London is now promising to fund the jet deliveries and could offer to “backfill” deployments with replacement fighters to countries that have given Ukraine aircraft.
An F-16’s payload normally consists of two 907kg bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, two AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missiles and two 1,088kg external fuel tanks.
They can fly at up to 2,400km per hour and at a range of more than 6,400km.
In the 1991 Gulf War, F-16s attacked airfields and military factories and have since been used by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and the Persian Gulf.
Zelensky is in Hiroshima to address the G7 leaders of the US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, the UK and Italy on Sunday.
Picture credit: Wikipedia