As the war in Ukraine continues to unfold, we ask this question: Why can’t the UK government send fighter jets to the country?
With the likes of Denmark and the Netherlands intending on supplying the country with F-16s, why can’t the UK currently?
Without further ado, let’s look into this…
Fighter Jets: Long-Standing Discussions Between the UK Government & Ukraine…
To establish this, we must rewind back to February 2023, when Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the UK.
When he visited, he addressed all chambers of government, and said the following on combat aircraft:
“I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words: Combat aircrafts – for Ukraine! Wings – for freedom!”.
“We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.”
By this early point, the UK Government’s stance was to take the line of not to rule out the use of UK combat aircraft in the form of donation to the Ukrainian armed forces.
As per an article from The Standard, the then Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“On the question of jets, one thing I’ve learned over the last year is don’t rule anything in, don’t rule anything out”.
But this has more or less been ruled out, as we will see below:
RAF’s Fast Jet Programme Training = Five Years…
The element of fighter jets being sent to Ukraine by the UK Government does seem to be ruled out. But why?: Could it be time?
As per Forces, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson ruled this out because the UK Fast Jets Training Programme has a duration of five years, which could offer the perspective that in the context of the war, that is far too long to wait.
However, other elements of support are being provided to the country by the UK Government, which includes training on fast jets, but on a far quicker scale.
On top of aerial personnel, the MOD believes that they can train up to 10,000 Ukrainian personnel every 120 days.
The RAF has around 10 fighter jets that are in storage, and have to be decommissioned by 2025, of which they could be handed over to Ukraine. But again, things aren’t as clear cut as they may seem.
Aerial equipment such as drones have also been of assistance packages in the past, but of course, the bread and butter for Zelenskyy is combat aircraft.
Zelenskyy Wants F-16s: Mind Already Made Up?
As mentioned at the start of this piece, it looks like Ukraine has already got what they need. Earlier this year, he indicated that F-16s would be the ideal choice of aircraft.
And after a few months of deliberation, the Netherlands agreed to hand over 42 F-16s, as well as Denmark with 19 more.
Now, this is where the aspect of training comes together as to why the UK Government won’t be able to provide such aircraft: They don’t have any F-16s. They have Typhoons & F-35s mainly.
That being said, since February 2022, the UK Government has assisted Ukraine in elementary flight training, as well as helping create connections and relationships to acquire such aircraft.
There is also a big difference in training time between the F-16 and the Typhoon. As mentioned above, the RAF Fast Jets programme is a five-year course. That is too long.
But as per a report from CNN, training can take anywhere between 4-8 months, of which the U.S is going to begin such training in October for Ukraine’s fighter pilots.
Is The U.K Government Doing All It Can for Ukraine?
From a limited inventory, to the wrong type of inventory, the U.K Government has been able to provide the support it can to assist Ukraine in its war against Russia in different ways.
Looking ahead, it will of course be interesting to see if that mindset will change from Prime Minister Sunak’s war chest, or whether help will be provided in other ways, such as what has been labelled in this piece.
For now, President Zelenskyy has over 50 F-16s on the way from NATO members Denmark & The Netherlands, with no doubt much more on the way in due course.
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