US bipartisan senators pressure Pentagon to send F-16s to Ukraine – Politico
To protect and destroy the invaders, Ukraine needs modern weapons, in particular, F-16 fighters. However, so far the United States has not decided on the provision of aviation to Kyiv, therefore, both Republicans and Democrats jointly turned to the Pentagon with this issue.
A group of bipartisan senators are demanding more information from the head of the Pentagon about what is needed to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. To do this, eight senators wrote a letter to Lloyd Austin received by Politico.
Senators want to convince to send F-16 to Kyiv
The letter was orchestrated by Senator Mark Kelly and was the result of a bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives, led by Maine Democrat Jared Golden. His main goal is to convince Biden to send F-16 or similar aircraft to Kyiv.
In the letter, representatives of Republicans and Democrats stressed that the war between Russia and Ukraine is now at a critical stage. And it is the F-16 fighters that can give Kyiv an advantage in the ongoing second year of the war. They became convinced of this opinion after talking with American, Ukrainian and foreign leaders at the Munich Security Conference.
We believe that the US should carefully consider providing F-16s to Ukraine. It would be a significant help that could be a game-changer on the battlefield,” the senators wrote.
Note that the bipartisan effort to convince the Biden administration to send F-16s or to facilitate sending them to Ukraine to other countries is backed by assessments from the top US and NATO commander in Europe, General Christopher Cavoli. Behind closed doors at the Munich conference, he told US lawmakers that sending advanced weapons, notably F-16s and long-range missiles, could help bolster Ukraine's defenses.
The senators called on Lloyd Austin to provide them with an assessment of the various factors needed to transfer the F-16 to Ukraine by the end of the week, March 19. Among the senators' questions were:
- how highly do Ukrainian officials rate jet fighters when they make requests for weapons,
- where F-16 fighters can be obtained, if approved, from new production or from existing stocks,
- what is the assessment of the military on the impact of the F-16 on the war,
- how quickly Ukrainian pilots will be able to learn how to fly fighter jets.
Also in the letter, a group of senators welcomed the news that two Ukrainian pilots had already arrived in the US to assess fighter jet skills at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson.
Biden administration wavering
As noted in Politico, senior US officials are now confident that fighter jets are not an immediate need for Ukraine on the battlefield compared to other means. Among them are US President Joe Biden and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The Biden administration's position was also defended by Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl. He told the House Armed Services Committee last month that the most optimistic delivery time for old F-16s would be about 18 months, while production of new jets could take three to six years.
In his opinion, although it is important for Ukraine to provide F-16 fighters, they are not the main priorities. And these are:
- air defense systems,
- artillery and fire
- armored vehicles and mechanized system.