By Jonathan Landay
MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) – Ukrainian officers have urged U.S. Congress members to press President Joe Biden’s administration to ship F-16 jetfighters to Kyiv, saying the plane would enhance Ukraine’s capacity to hit Russian missile models with U.S.-made rockets, lawmakers stated.
The lobbying came visiting the weekend on the sidelines of the Munich Safety Convention in talks between Ukrainian officers, together with International Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and Democrats and Republicans from the Senate and Home of Representatives.
“They informed us that they need (F-16s) to suppress enemy air defenses so they might get their drones” past Russian entrance traces, Senator Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who flew U.S. Navy fighters in fight, informed Reuters on Saturday night.
Biden final month stated “no” when requested if he would approve Ukraine’s request for Lockheed-Martin-made F-16s.
4 delegations from the Senate and Home mixed in what members known as the most important variety of U.S. lawmakers to attend Europe’s premier safety gathering because it began in 1963, demonstrating clear bipartisan assist for Ukraine.
The convention – primarily targeted on Ukraine – got here days earlier than the Feb. 24 anniversary of Russia’s invasion. The perimeters have been locked in grinding battles, largely within the jap Donbas area, following a string of Russian defeats.
Kelly and three different lawmakers who spoke to Reuters about their talks with Ukrainian officers stated they believed that assist was constructing in Congress to offer Ukraine with F-16s, one of many world’s most versatile multi-role jetfighters.
Ukraine’s air drive has tailored U.S.-made AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface rockets to fireside from their Soviet-designed MiG-29 jetfighters. The rockets hone in on the digital transmissions from radars of surface-to-air missile models.
The Ukrainians stated their pilots may extra successfully goal Russian S-300 and S-400 air protection missile models with the AGM-88 if the rockets have been fired utilizing the F-16s’ extra superior avionics, lawmakers stated.
“They contended that they want that airplane for the SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) mission,” stated Kelly. “They in all probability assume they’ll do a greater job at taking out the S-400s.”
He stated that whereas it requires a minimum of yr of coaching to grasp all the F-16’s capabilities, Ukrainian pilots might be taught to do “a restricted variety of issues…in just a few months.”
Help is constructing on either side of the Atlantic for offering Ukraine with superior NATO-standard jetfighters. Britain says it might present coaching.
Each side, nonetheless, have been reluctant to make use of their airpower in a major method because the warfare started.
Calls to produce Ukraine with superior jetfighters observe agreements final month by France, Britain, the US and Germany to produce Kyiv with trendy battle tanks.
Washington has supplied some $30 billion in navy assist to Ukraine because the starting of what Moscow calls its “particular navy operation.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Enhancing by Kirsten Donovan)