A bipartisan group of US senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday urging him to investigate the possibility of sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky it lobbied the United States and other allies to supply military aircraft throughout the war year. President Biden has so far refused to authorize fighter jets for Ukraine, but eight US senators wrote in a letter on Tuesday that the country is at a “critical juncture in the conflict” and may need airpower to prevail.
“After speaking with US, Ukrainian and foreign leaders working to support Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference last month, we believe the US needs to look closely at the supply of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine,” they said. wrote the senators in the letter, which was led by Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.
“This would be a significant capability that could prove to be a game-changer on the battlefield.”
The letter noted that two Ukrainian pilots had recently traveled to Tucson, Arizona, to take part in a skills assessment on an F-16 simulator at Morris Air National Guard Base. Senators called it a “critical step” in assessing the capabilities of Ukrainian forces to receive Western fighter aircraft. The Ukrainian military mainly uses Soviet-made aircraft such as the MiG-29.
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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers sent a similar letter to Biden last month urging him to supply planes to Ukraine.
“F-16 or similar fourth-generation fighter jets would provide Ukraine with a highly mobile platform from which to target Russian air-to-air missiles and drones, to protect Ukrainian ground forces while engaging Russian troops, as well as to engage fighters Russians for contested air superiority,” the lawmakers wrote on Feb. 28.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that his government could send Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine “within the next four to six weeks,” according to the Associated Press. Other European allies have also hinted that they are willing to supply Ukraine with military aircraft.
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It wouldn’t be the first time the US reversed course by sending some types of military equipment to Ukraine. The United States resisted sending M1 Abrams tanks for several months before the Pentagon announced in January it would send 31 tanks to the battlefield.