Foreign media are now actively discussing the topic of whether NATO will provide its fighter jets to Ukraine. This issue became especially relevant after the visit of the President of Ukraine to Britain and France, and later to Brussels to participate in the summit. At all key points of his trip, he raised the issue of providing Ukraine with airplanes.
«The sooner Ukraine gets long-range heavy weaponry, the sooner our pilots get planes, the sooner this Russian aggression will end, and we can return to peace in Europe», — he said in Paris.
Now the foreign media are unanimously opinion that NATO is not going to provide its fighters, for a number of reasons. Some media even speculate on this topic, writing the headlines «Zelenskiy in despair», or spreading the narrative that NATO is afraid of the nuclear weapons of the Russian Federation.
We decided to deal with this issue.
What planes can we talk about?
The F-16 and Eurofighter Typhoon can be considered the main fighter jets that Zelenskiy insisted on receiving during his trip. He also emphasized the need for long-range missiles.
Previously, other aircraft, such as the Swedish SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, appeared in discussions of possible aviation supplies among European politicians.
In France, it is allowed to send fighter jets to Ukraine, they can be old models of Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft. Given that France produces its own aircraft, their export does not require third-party approval, so it is a very likely warrant for Ukraine.
Slovakia has announced that it is ready to hand over its old MiG-29s to Ukraine.
We took a comment from Lieutenant General, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Ukraine (2006-2010) Igor Romanenko, regarding which fighter jets Ukraine needs:
«It would be good if deliveries went in this order — first Soviet planes, from all over the world. We will need to retrain our pilots, because there is an inch system and other modernizations — adaptation will take at least two months. I am talking not only about the MIG-29, but also about all 4 [types of combat aircraft in service with the Ukrainian Air Force]— the MIG-29, Su-27, Su-25 and Su-24. We need a lot now, because Russia has a greater military potential. Secondly, this is an F-16 from the Netherlands, maybe Poland, something would help. Now the Ministry of the Netherlands says that they are ready, but this issue is collective in NATO. And the third stage is the Jas 39 Gripen and Dassault Rafale, which we will learn over time».
Let us recall which NATO (and EU) countries have Soviet aircraft:
- Bulgaria: MiG-29 — 11, Su-25 — 6.
- Croatia: MiG-21 — 12.
- Poland: MiG-29 — 23, Su-22 — 32.
- Romania: MiG-21 — 16.
- Slovakia: MiG-29 — 10.
He also added that the best option for Ukraine would be F-16, F-15 and Swedish Jas 39 Gripen aircraft. Because the F-16 is light and universal to begin with. F-15, because it is currently in the world, of its class can carry the most aircraft weapons on board, and this is important to us.
Regarding the Jas 39 Gripen, he said:
«This plane has 30% British spare parts. They are cheaper and easier to maintain. There is a nuance that, for some reason, the fuel is different from the one used by NATO. They are more adapted to our conditions, because they can be planted not only on the airfield, but also on the highway. But I repeat, there is a problem with fuel, we do not have enough fuel to refuel separately. I looked somewhere about this, and it is a serious problem if it is true”.
Does NATO refuse to supply us with absolutely all fighters?
The situation is not as unambiguous as it seems at first glance. Most NATO countries have refused to supply fighter jets in the near future, but do not rule out the possibility of negotiations in this regard.
Igor Romanenko replied that the Soviet aircraft that were stored and modernized in NATO could «arrive» in Ukraine as soon as possible. These are MIG-29 fighters from Slovakia (11-12 aircraft) and Su-27, Su-25 and Su-24 attack aircraft, which we also need. Our pilots are a little trained on similar planes, but the fact is that even those planes that are adapted to NATO can’t use the entire set of aviation weapons that they can.
“Here, it is important for us not only to increase the number of this type of aircraft, but the fact that they can use air weapons that allow us to detect and destroy Russian aircraft at a greater distance. Now everything is happening the other way around — Russian air weapons allow us to detect us earlier and destroy in the same way. Therefore, every lift of our plane into the air is a «feat».
For example, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace did not completely rule out sending planes to Ukraine. But he said air support and troop movement support could be achieved with long-range missiles and drones. The same delivery of aircraft can take months.
Speaking at a conference in Rome, he said it was «more realistic and more productive» to envisage Britain providing aircraft to Ukraine in the long term to ensure its security after the end of the war with Russia.
The answer regarding the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter was clear. The Minister of Defense rejected former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suggestion that Great Britain could provide 100 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets to Ukraine. These planes are produced by a coalition of different countries, and their permission is required before being sent to Ukraine.
Wallace said that these fighters, firstly, should defend the borders of NATO and Britain. The UK’s existing commitments, including air control in the Baltic states and a Eurofighter Typhoon squadron in Qatar, mean there are few spare aircraft left.
Mr. Wallace added that this plane is only equipped for air-to-air combat and is not suitable for ground attacks. They are also difficult to maintain.
There were also active disputes regarding the provision of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Most of the media agreed that the delivery of these planes depends on the permission of the US, because they are their manufacturers. For the time being, the US has said «no» to the question of providing fighter jets.
However, the Netherlands, which owns F-16s and is currently in the process of upgrading to more modern F-35s, has said it may send some F-16s to Ukraine.
«Work on obtaining F-16 fighters continues. There are positive signals from Poland, which is ready to transfer them to us in coordination with NATO«, — Andriy Yermak, head of the office of the President of Ukraine, said.
And although Biden told his «no», Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Poland, «like a few months ago, can transfer MiGs or other aircraft» to Ukraine if such steps are fully agreed with NATO countries.
Another option for Ukraine is the Jas 39 Gripen aircraft, which are very light and cheap to maintain. But the forecasts for them are not encouraging. The Prime Minister of Sweden noted that his country itself needs these fighter jets in response to Zelenskiy’s request in Brussels. This is reported by the Swedish publication SVT.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country does not rule out sending Mirage 2000-C fighters to Ukraine, but put forward several conditions. Among them: the provision of such equipment would not escalate tensions or be used «to touch Russian soil», he said.
Currently, Ukrainian pilots are undergoing training in Great Britain on NATO-standard aircraft.
According to Sunak, Great Britain «was very clear about providing military aid to Ukraine, and nothing is excluded».
«When it comes to fighter jets, they are of course part of the conversation… that’s why we announced today that we will train the Ukrainian Air Force based on NATO standards», — he added.
Yuriy Ignat, the spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said in a briefing last week that it would take Ukrainian pilots a “couple of weeks” to learn how to fly the fighters but “about six months” to master how to fight with the aircraft.
But, Ben Wallace, the UK’s defense secretary, has suggested that Ukrainian air force pilots might only complete their training in the UK «probably post-conflict».
Igor Romanenko expressed doubts whether Ukrainian pilots will be trained on NATO planes at all.
“I think that they will not teach. Because in order to teach, you need to make decisions. There is some kind of preliminary course, but it is small in terms of time for training on NATO aircraft. We will send there already trained pilots, not cadets. Therefore, our military will rather be retrained there. I would like to add that if you teach, you need to clearly know on which planes, and they do not make decisions about this».
How do foreign media spread pro-Russian narratives through the topic of airplanes?
Some media have already begun to attribute to Zelenskiy the «desperation» he allegedly fell into because he urgently needs fighter jets.
The publication Newsweek is a vivid example. This is evidenced by both the title of the article and the comments provided in it. Example:
“He knows that it will take months to train Ukrainian pilots to learn not just to fly but to fight in Western aircraft,» said Former British army intelligence officer Philip Ingram. «He clearly feels he is in a position where he can spare some of his best pilots for an extended period of time, whilst holding the Russians back, to do just that.»
CBS News wrote that NATO is afraid to provide fighter jets to Ukraine because Russia threatens nuclear weapons. This is another pro-Russian narrative that raises the authority of the aggressor country in the eyes of society and shows the alliance from its weak side.
“Since the start of the war, Western governments have stalled on Zelenskyy’s appeals for aircraft, mostly because they fear that deliveries of ultra sophisticated warplanes would stoke tensions with nuclear-armed Russia and escalate the conflict — a fear which Russia has stoked at every opportunity”.
As confirmation of Russia’s threat, they showed the Kremlin’s reaction to Zelensky’s visit to Europe.
«We perceive this as nothing more than the growing involvement of Great Britain, Germany, and France in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The line between indirect and direct involvement is gradually disappearing. One can only express regret and state that such actions lead to escalation, prolong the conflict, make this conflict more painful and painful for Ukraine», — spokesman of the President of the Russian Federation Dmytro Peskov.
To be fair, it is worth noting that the version with nuclear weapons is not very far from the truth. Igor Romanenko expressed himself as follows:
“There is an agreement between the United States and China regarding the fact that until the United States or NATO provides us with their planes, China will deter the Russians from using weapons of mass destruction. They don’t talk about it in open sources. Separately, they talked about it somewhere and closed the topic. It is clear that it is unnecessary for Americans. They are worried about two issues. So that there is no escalation to the level where it will be necessary for NATO troops to enter the war and not lead to a state where Putin can use weapons of mass destruction.»