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Pentagon explains F-16 delay for Ukraine — RT World News

Supplying an adequate number of warplanes would take years and cost billions, a top military official said

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley has said Washington is simply unable to provide enough F-16 fighter jets to assist Ukraine’s counteroffensive, citing the time and money needed to supply the weapons.

Asked why Ukraine has not received the American fighters during a Tuesday press briefing, Milley said the focus should instead be on artillery and air defenses, as F-16s will not be feasible in the near-term.

“Just do a quick math drill here. Ten F-16s are $2 billion,” he said. “The Russians have hundreds of fourth- and fifth-generation airframes, so if they’re going to try to match the Russians one for one – or even, you know, two-to-one – you’re talking about a large number of aircraft.”

Top US general weighs in on ‘cost’ of Ukraine’s counteroffensive

The general said it would take “years” to train Ukrainian pilots, “do the maintenance and sustainment” operations required, and “generate that degree of financial support,” adding “You’re talking way more billions of dollars than has already been generated.”

While US officials previously said Ukrainian airmen would be instructed to operate the F-16 through an international coalition seeking to help Kiev obtain the jet, Washington has yet to grant formal approval to European countries slated to carry out the training, Politico reported last week. 

The State Department is supposed to authorize the transfer of instruction manuals, flight simulators and other materials required for the training, but has yet to do so, with Pentagon spokesman Garron Garn noting that the requests are “still being reviewed.”

US delaying approval of F-16 training for Ukraine – Politico

Kiev has repeatedly urged its Western backers to provide it with additional airpower, demanding the F-16 specifically on several occasions. Though Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said Ukraine could deploy its first F-16s by late March 2024, it is unclear what Milley’s comments could mean for that timetable. 

Ukraine’s much-awaited counteroffensive kicked off in June, but has slowed in the face of powerful Russian fortifications. According to Politico, some senior US officials believe that future support for Ukraine will depend on the success of the operation, though Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has blamed delays in Western military aid for the lagging campaign.

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