British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte said yesterday that they are starting to build an international coalition, the goal of which is to get Western fighter jets for Ukraine’s use.
– We are very interested in building a coalition that will give Volodymyr and his people the fighter support they need, Sunak said after meeting with the President of Ukraine to Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this week.
Belgium and France have also signed up to join the coalition. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius instead said on Wednesday – after meeting with Britain’s defense minister – that the country does not have the resources to contribute to training or donating planes.
So far, however, no country has promised to give its fighters to Ukraine. Instead, the countries are talking about training Ukrainian fighter pilots.
Fighter pilot training takes time
Aleksanteri Institute Visiting researcher Ilmari Käihkö estimates that the aim is to get as many fighters of the same type of aircraft as possible for Ukraine.
– This would facilitate pilot training, logistics and the operation of the planes themselves, says Käihkö.
According to him, the training of fighter pilots is much more demanding and takes more time than that of tank operators. It took half a year to get the tanks into Ukraine’s use.
In other words, it will take Ukraine a long time to get fighter jets into service.
According to Käihkö, the matter will not necessarily proceed in such a way that all the countries joining the coalition will give Ukraine the same fighter jets.
– One possibility is that Ukraine will initially receive one type of machine from a country that can provide them quickly, he estimates.
According to Käihkö, this happened with tanks, when first the British gave Ukraine Challenger tanks and then the United States Abrams tanks.
Only then did Germany agree that several countries would supply Ukraine with the Leopard tanks it had requested.
Who do you get fighters from?
According to Käihkö, the British have been at the forefront of supporting Ukraine in many ways, and their role will be significant even now.
So far, Britain has promised to train fighter pilots, but it has not promised Ukraine the fighters themselves.
Ukraine has requested 40–50 copies (you will switch to another service) F-16 fighters.
According to Käihkö, it is possible that Ukraine will receive a smaller number of other types of aircraft before this, such as Sweden’s Gripen aircraft.
– However, I consider F-16s to be the most likely, because there are several countries in Europe, he estimates.
Britain does not have F-16s, but for example Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Greece, and Romania do.
On the other hand, what speaks for Gripen is that American technology would not be transferred to the use of Ukraine’s enemy, and the machines are designed for a similar underpowered situation as where Ukraine is now.
– In a war, machines and technology inevitably also end up in the hands of the enemy, and for this reason it is clear that the United States does not want to hand over modern fighter technology to Ukraine, Käihkö estimates.
“Fighters can play a significant role in the war in Ukraine”
Deploying F-16 fighters would require a lot from Ukraine. In addition to training pilots, it should upgrade its own weapon systems to be compatible with them.
According to Käihkö, if the operation of the machines is successful, it may play a significant role in the war in Ukraine.
– The general perception is that modern war cannot be lost on the battlefield if you can achieve air supremacy, he states.
According to Käihkö, the fighters would make it possible for Ukraine to attack Russian rearguards and targets located far behind the front line, as well as enhance air defense.
Ukraine’s investigation would also become easier.
– Ukraine is currently fighting a defensive war, but in order to win the war, it must attack. Here, the role of fighters is very large and it can even be decisive for the war, Käihkö estimates.
However, a big question mark is Russia’s desire to use its own fighters in the war.
– Russia has not yet properly put its air force into play, but has saved it for the defense of its own country, he says.
According to Käihkö, Russia has thought that soldiers and land force equipment can be replaced with new ones, but replacing fighter jets and fighter pilots would be expensive.
In any case, Käihkö considers it likely that Ukraine will receive Western fighters.
– Ukraine has gradually moved towards the use of Western military equipment and this will continue, he estimates.
According to Käihkö, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi has managed with his skillful diplomacy to bind Western countries to support Ukraine now and also in the future.
14.29 Earlier in the story it was said that Finland has F-16 fighters at its disposal. Finland has F/A-18 fighters.