While the delivery of heavy tanks to Ukraine has only just been validated by the West, the possibility of sending fighter planes has already been raised by a number of Ukrainian, American and Europeans. At the same time, kyiv has relaunched another of its recurring demands: the dispatch of long-range missiles. “The negotiations are taking place at an accelerated pace”, assured, on Saturday January 27, the adviser to the Ukrainian president, Mykhaïlo Podoliak, during an interview with the Ukrainian television channel Freedom.
Until now, the United States has always refused to provide either planes or long-range surface-to-surface missiles, known as ATACMS, whose range can reach 300 km. Red lines enacted because of the fear that kyiv would use this equipment to push the offensive to Russian territory. But the Ukrainians continue to put pressure on their allies, considering that one of the only ways to weaken the Moscow army is to succeed in destroying its artillery stocks, of which a hundred would be located in occupied Crimea, according to Mr. Podoliak .
However, for the first time, on January 25, several senior American officials seemed ready to reopen the discussion on these subjects. Sending fighter jets will be “very carefully” discussed, White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told US channel MSNBC. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin to “increase F-16 production at Greenville [Caroline du Sud] in order to be able to respond very satisfactorily to the needs of the countries which would choose to carry out third-party transfers to contribute to the current conflict”, indicated, the same day, Frank St John, director of operations of the American company , to the Financial Times.
Convince the United States
F-16s are the most sought-after aircraft in kyiv today. These so-called “fourth generation” devices have the advantage of being versatile while being relatively inexpensive. “It’s a small plane that has been constantly modernized since its entry into service and which can accomplish all missions at a lower cost, a bit like the Mirage 2000”, explains Jean-Christophe Noël, a former fighter pilot, now a researcher. associated with the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) and editor-in-chief of the review journal Vortex, published by the Air Force.
Like the Leopard tank, which Berlin has exported to many European countries, the F-16 is one of the best-selling American fighter planes abroad in recent years. There is thus in Europe an “F-16 club” of nine countries with this type of aircraft, as there is a “Leopard club” of 14 countries for the Rheinmetall tank. The interest of kyiv, for these planes as for the tanks, is identical: to target equipment available in number in order to be able to really change the deal. But the difficulty is also always the same: convincing the manufacturing country – this time, the United States – to authorize the re-export of this type of weapon.
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