As Ukraine requests Western-made fighters to bolster its military capabilities against Russia, a Ukrainian fighter pilot has expressed his view that US-made F-16 fighters are the “optimal choice” over Britain’s extremely capable Eurofighter Typhoons.
Ukraine, which relies mainly on Soviet-era fighters, has frequently requested fighters from the West to ward off Russian attacks.
So far, the United States has refused, citing concern about the escalating conflict and a preference to focus on providing military aid in other areas. Furthermore, the UK Defense Secretary has stated that no British fighters will be immediately transferred to Ukraine.
Although sending fighter jets to Ukraine has been ruled out for the time being, Britain has not fully ruled it out. According to reports, the Eurofighter Typhoon could be sent to Ukraine from the United Kingdom.
However, in an interview with Sky News, a Ukrainian fighter pilot stated that he would be “delighted to fly” a British Typhoon aircraft but is not sure how practical it would be considering how expensive and limited they are.
The pilot, who goes by Juice, claimed that the US-made F-16, used by many nations around the world, would be the best option for the Ukrainian air force to be more lethal when its pilots engaged Russian targets.
According to a Ukrainian fighter pilot who called the F-16 the “best choice,” it’s not just about quality but also the number of airframes readily available in Europe and other nations.
“We have to get them very quickly, and they should be ready to go,” Juice added.
The thought of Juice piloting a fourth-generation Royal Air Force Typhoon piqued his interest. He did, however, list numerous reasons why he thought that was highly unlikely.
The Typhoon, he noted, is a very capable aircraft, but it is also quite expensive and has a minimal number of platforms available. He was willing to fly the Typhoon, but he wasn’t sure the idea was feasible.
Eurofighter Typhoon Challenges
Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, paid a surprise visit to London this week, telling lawmakers and British allies that his nation needs more advanced weapons, such as advanced fighter jets, to repel Russian soldiers.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “nothing was off the table.” Sunak stated that he was discussing further support to Ukraine, which could include fighter jets, but the main stage was training Ukrainian pilots, which the UK will start doing on standard NATO aircraft.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said that Ukraine cannot receive Typhoons without the approval of the international coalition responsible for their development.
Experts, however, agree that the Royal Air Force does not have much to offer in the way of significant or long-term contributions. Wallace added that it was his job to ensure the United Kingdom and NATO had sufficient air power for defense.
Due to the United Kingdom’s current commitments, including air policing in the Baltic countries and a squadron of Typhoons in Qatar, not many extra aircraft are available.
According to Wallace, the Typhoons that would likely be fielded are only designed for air-to-air combat and are not suitable for a ground assault. In addition, there are significant practical issues, such as the time required to train pilots, even for those with combat experience.
Some 20 of the older Typhoons are scheduled to be retired by 2025. Additionally, maintaining the Typhoons is challenging due to their extensive logistics and support systems.
Therefore, it is believed that the most suitable combat aircraft for Ukraine is the American F-16. Some EU leaders want to avoid public debate about the fighter jet but also worry about escalation and playing into the hands of Russian propaganda.
Due to commitments such as air policing in the Baltic countries and a squadron of Typhoons in Qatar, the United Kingdom does not have access to many extra aircraft, Wallace said.