Washington says it can't provide Ukraine with enough F-16s, but vows to continue supporting country
Washington says it can't provide Ukraine with enough F-16s, but vows to continue supporting country

Washington: The time and money required to procure the weapons, according to US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, prevent Washington from simply supplying enough F-16 fighter jets to support Ukraine's counteroffensive.

When questioned about why Ukraine has not yet received American fighters during a press conference on Tuesday, Milley responded that the emphasis should instead be placed on artillery and air defenses because F-16s won't be practical in the near future.

"Let's practice some math right now. Ten F-16s cost $2 billion, the speaker claimed. "The Russians have hundreds of fourth- and fifth-generation airframes, so if they're going to try and match the Russians one for one - or even, you know, two-to-one - you're talking about a large number of aircraft."

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The general stated that it would require "years" to train Ukrainian pilots, "do the maintenance and sustainment" tasks necessary, and "generate that degree of financial support," adding that "you're talking way more billions of dollars than has already been generated."

Although US officials had previously stated that Ukrainian airmen would be trained to fly the F-16 through a global alliance attempting to assist Kiev in obtaining the aircraft, Washington has yet to formally approve the European nations tasked with conducting the training, Politico reported last week. 

Instruction manuals, flight simulators, and other materials needed for the training are supposed to be transferred by the State Department, but this hasn't happened, according to Pentagon spokesman Garron Garn, who noted that the requests are "still being reviewed."

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Kiev has repeatedly pressed its Western backers for more air power, specifically requesting the F-16 on several occasions. Although Dmitry Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, stated that the country could deploy its first F-16s by the end of March 2024, it is unknown how Milley's remarks may affect that projection. 

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The long-awaited counteroffensive by Ukraine began in June, but it has slowed in the face of strong Russian defenses. Senior US officials reportedly believe that the operation's success will determine how much support the country will receive in the future, though Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has attributed the operation's slow progress to Western military aid delays.

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