The United States will not stand in the path of NATO allies who wish to transfer F-16 fighters into the Ukraine Air Force and will train Ukrainian pilots on flight proficiency and tactics, but not in America. Joe Biden told the other G-7 leaders about the sudden change in US policy during the G-7 Summit in Japan on Friday. Antony Blinken (no “h” in Antony’s name) and other “senior officials” confirmed the policy shift to make sure everyone knew that it was real. Joe Biden had not slipped into delirium-dementia again. The F-16s may be ready to go by the end of autumn.
NATO has had a heated debate about the Ukraine Air Force (see Putin’s War Week 52). US and China Face Off, and Prigozhin goes for the Jugular and Mystery Weapon Strikes. The Ukrainian Air Force utilizes the same Soviet-designed aircraft as the Russian Air Force. Eastern Europe was scoured to find any and all Soviet aircraft, whether they were flyable or not. The operational aircraft fill in gaps within the Ukrainian Air Force. The non-operational aircraft are dismantled and used as parts. This well is dry. This is a good example of how far we have come since the initial decision to provide Ukraine with F-16s. Several East European countries had wanted to send surplus Soviet planes to Ukraine shortly after the start of the war, but the US blocked their efforts. See Transfers from NATO to Ukraine Fall Through as Zelensky Resumes His Campaign for No Fly Zones, Did Blinken Place Poland Outside NATO Protection If It Transfers New Fighting Aircraft to Ukraine? and Biden Junta Deception Revealed Following Poland
Next, Ukraine would be equipped with aircraft that were designed and manufactured in Western Europe. The fighter had to have multiple roles (air-to-air, close air support, and suppression of enemy air defenses as well as interdiction) and be capable enough to justify the effort. In many European air forces, the F-16 was the obvious choice.
The holdup was caused by a fight within the Biden national security apparatus. The two main combatants appear to be Secretary Blinken and Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense (Policy). The F-16 issue was only the most visible battlefield between the two parties. The main fight between the two sides was between those who believe that Ukraine should be provided with the weapons it needs to expel Russia and establish the foundations for a secure security arrangement (Blinken) and those who wish to prolong the war to a standstill and then do something (Kahl).
Losing the F-16 battle is not a little thing for Kahl. On the contrary, it represents a total repudiation of his position on the subject. In January, Kahl declared that Ukraine did not need the aircraft. In April, he said it would take 18 months to send the aircraft to Ukraine.
US Deputy Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl says it will take 1.5 years for the U.S. to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine from the moment the U.S. would potentially decide on sending them.
That decision should have been taken by February 25th, 2022. pic.twitter.com/ZQcnBue4r1
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) April 17, 2023
It has been revealed that the USAF’s assessment of Ukrainian pilots’ training levels is only four months.
Scoop: @YahooNews has obtained a U.S. Air Force assessment of how two Ukrainian pilots did in a 3-week course on F-16s at Morris Air National Guard Base in Feb/March. Conclusion: it’ll take 4 months to train them, not 18, as the Pentagon has said: https://t.co/sY3WSOuum0
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) May 18, 2023
Last month, the Defense Department announced the M-1 tanks scheduled to be delivered in the next year or two will be available this autumn. The Defense Department announced Monday that Ukrainian tank crews and maintenance crews are beginning training in Germany.
Colin Kahl resigns after the NATO Summit on July 11-12. He was the Biden Administration’s champion of the Iran Nuclear Deal. I interpret that as a complete victory for Blinken and I believe it will lead to other US weapons systems like ATACMS being released soon to Ukraine.
The Russian state-run media outlet TASS reported that Alexander Grushko, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, said:
“We observe that Western countries still adhere to the escalation strategy. This entails colossal risk for them. This will be considered in our plans and we are equipped with the means to reach the goals that we have set.”
I won’t argue with you if you believe in the escalation talks. At this point, the word “escalation”, however, has more in common with religious beliefs than it does with defense policy scenarios. Russia has screamed “nuclear warfare” and “escalation”, to the point that all it is left are a few tattered pieces of cloth. Russia and its supporters predicted an escalation at every stage of the war. What’s happened? Nothing. No special forces have attacked NATO depots in eastern Poland. Russia has not attacked the main rail trunks that deliver supplies from Poland into Ukraine. The supply convoys that run from Poland to Ukraine were not attacked. Ukraine received the latest armaments and war material to maintain its army on the battlefield. Ukraine has hit targets both in the areas that Russia claims as its own territory and deep inside Russia itself.
The bigger picture is not just Ukraine receiving modern NATO aircraft or NATO training for aircrews. The Biden State and Defense Departments have been criticized for their minimalist approach to supporting Ukraine. Equipping the Ukrainian Air Force with the necessary equipment to achieve air superiority on the battlefield is a significant change. For over a decade, the debate has centered around the idea of providing Putin with an “off-ramp” and some sort of “face-saving” solution. This ultimately boils down to forcing Ukraine to surrender sovereign territory and giving Russia time to breathe before a second round of hostilities. The focus will not be on ending this war by rolling back Russia’s aggression and giving Ukraine the security guarantees like NATO membership that will prevent the war from starting in a few more years.