On Friday, John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said that the Pentagon “is making some preliminary explorations into the feasibility of potentially providing fighter aircraft to the Ukrainians,” adding, “But it’s not something that they’re going to be able to execute immediately or even in the short term.”
This move would expand US involvement in war and risk significant escalation with Russia.
The comments from a senior White House national security spokesman are the latest sign of the Biden administration’s growing assertiveness on arms supply for Kyiv.
It suggests an increasing willingness to provide advanced weaponry in an effort to help turn the tide of the war however the outcome is hard to predict as the war prolongs.
Poland, in March, proposed transferring MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine however the Pentagon rejected the offer, calling it “high risk.”
The US intelligence community assessed that transferring the Russian-made aircraft would risk a response from Moscow that could result in a direct military conflict with NATO.
Kirby while addressing reporters during a briefing said that the issues that must be addressed before the US is to give Ukrainians training on the jet’s maintenance, and providing spare parts.
However, he did not say anything about the kind of aircraft the US was considering or when the administration would make a decision.
A former Pentagon official said F-15 and F-16 fighter jets have been discussed as options for Ukraine, though both aircraft require significant training and maintenance.
The Pentagon declined to provide details about what it is assessing. “We are certainly engaged in a large discussion with the Ukrainians about their future force needs,” a senior defense official told reporters during a briefing, as per the media portal.
Russia usually refrains from using manned aircraft deep inside Ukraine because of layered Ukrainian air defenses. It does, however, actively use fixed-wing and rotary aircraft on the front lines, often firing missiles and rockets from a distance.
Speaking earlier this week at the Aspen Security Forum, Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the chief of the U.S. Air Force, said when asked about the prospect of giving U.S. aircraft to Ukraine that there were potentially several platforms, but “I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be.”