The question of getting Western fighter jets remains one of the most painful for Ukraine, as they will turn the situation around in the sky and gain superiority in the air. But It’s a long term process, which is called "achieving operational readiness", that is deployment of the entire ground infrastructure, pilots and technicians training, creation of the entire logistical base for providing aircraft with fuel and ammunition, setting up the service system.
According to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, it will take years for the deployment of American fighters. At the same time, there’s possible scenario, which allows us to hope that Ukraine will receive modern 4+ generation aircraft in the foreseeable future. In this case let’s refer to the same part of Colin Kahl's answer to the journalists' questions regarding the planes to Ukraine.
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“So, we're trying to be very deliberate about what systems we think makes the most sense for Ukraine to have in that context, and also matters very much—can they sustain it? Can they afford it? Because, of course, you know, billions of dollars of international assistance is not, you know, may not be something 10 years from now, or 20 years from now. So, these also have to be systems that Ukraine itself can sustain. But I can tell you that fighter aircraft remain on the table, just no final decisions have been made about that,” said Colin Kahl.
After a direct question, whether the US will supply aircraft, he answers that the US will not. But this doesn’t mean that there are no other options. Especially since it was previously stated that it is not necessary to be limited by only American jets.
And in this situation, it is necessary to look at another event, namely the defense summit in Copenhagen, which took place on August 10. And also the events that happened the summit.
In particular, the Minister of Defense of Sweden said that the country can start supplying weapons to Ukraine, and based on the hypothetically possible list, the number of really interesting options is relatively small. One of the samples of Swedish weapons, which is extremely interesting for Ukraine, is the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen fighter.
Then there was an event that did not arouse much interest at all: the approval of the agreement between Ukraine and Sweden on cooperation in the field of defense, which updated the agreement signed in 2011. Which speaks precisely about the expansion of the defense direction between the two countries.
Finally, the JAS 39 Gripen has been considered one of the earliest candidates for the renewal of Ukrainian Air Force. It was mentioned in the Vision for 2035. Also, the consideration of Gripen as a candidate was announced by the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov in mid-July, saying that this is the best option given the existing ground infrastructure of Ukraine. That is, quite a lot of public statements and steps that point specifically to the JAS 39 Gripen.
Even a new statement by Colin Kahl, who emphasized the economic component, is included in this choice. And the fact is that it is Gripen that has the lowest cost per flight hour, and the example of the contract with Brazil suggests that Saab is ready to even go for the localization of aircraft production.
Taking into account all these factors, the JAS 39 Gripen is quite possible and is the first candidate for strengthening Ukrainian Air Force. At the same time, as the Pentagon has already made clear, while all these processes are being developed, the United States and the allies will not only support, but also expand the combat capabilities of Ukraine's existing air fleet of Soviet MiG-29, Su- 27 and other jets.
Of course, all these public conversations are possibly designed to disguise the plans. The USA and the allies are quite effective in supplying Ukraine with quite interesting samples of weapons in a regime of absolute secrecy, distracting attention with a public component and active discussion. As a result, we get to know about the supplied weaponry according to russia’s reports after successful strikes.
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