Brigadier General Serhii Golubtsov, Chief of Aviation of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told The Times in that two of Ukraine’s pilots had successfully passed tests in the USA concerning possible F-16 training, and showed positive results. As it turned out, Ukraine’s pilots are capable of mastering this fighter jet in less than six months, and this despite the fact that the pilots selected for testing weren’t the best ones.
These words eliminated one of the counter-arguments from the US or other countries not to give Ukraine the F-16 now, saying that these planes take a long time to master. It turned out it took much shorter in time, and therefore there is no need to struggle with the adoption and announcement of a political decision.
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However, another argument can be made here, why it is finally the time to switch to the F-16. The decision by Poland and Slovakia to supply Ukraine with the MiG-29 jets with NATO-standard onboard equipment did not arouse much enthusiasm in society, although we have reached the moment when the countries of the Alliance are officially handing Ukraine combat aircraft. And against this background, Defense Express reminds that in the spring of 2022 the USA already provided assistance to Ukraine with Soviet the MiG-29 and Su-25 aircraft.
The wording "Soviet aircraft" is used here on purpose: on the one hand, the Pentagon itself officially declared the fact of the transfer of such aid, on the other hand, the format of and the sources of supplies still remain unclear.
For example, in April 2022, the Pentagon said they transferred"parts and additional platforms" that helped put 20 planes into service at once. But as the Air Force of Ukraine clarified later, these were spare parts and components to restore aircraft damaged in battles. And in May of the same year, Foreign Policy reported that the United States also delivered the Su-25 in disassembled form "from partners in Eastern Europe."
It is possible to imagine where the USA could get "spare parts and components" for the MiG-29 or Su-25 from. In June 1997, the United States bought 21 MiG-29 fighters, a certain supply of spare parts and a significant number of air-to-air missiles: 344 units of the R-60 and 112 units of the R-73, and 51 missiles of the R-27R from Moldova worth 40 million dollars overall.
The Minister of Defense of North Macedonia, Slavjanka Petrovska, confirmed that her country did hand over four Su-25 aircraft from storage to Ukraine. But this message by no means excludes the fact that the USA could take on an intermediary and logistical role in such a supply. And considering the fact that Macedonian Su-25 “disappearance” was noticed in August 2022, by no means excludes the possibility that these planes had been actually handed over to Ukraine much earlier.
However, there is one obstacle. The concept of supporting Ukraine for the time being only by transferring Soviet aircraft with the NATO equipment could be fully operational if the process went linearly. That is, for example, first Warsaw and Bratislava would provide Ukraine with their MiG-29s, and only then "components and platforms" from "Moldovan" stocks in the USA or aircraft from "Macedonian" preservation be used to maintain their operational efficiency.
In case with Ukraine, everything went exactly the other way around: first the "Moldovan" and "Macedonian" stocks were used, then even the German government officially announced the transfer, in particular, of their stockpiles of spare parts for the MiG-29, and now only now the official transfer of aircraft from Warsaw Pact from NATO countries has been announced.
In fact, the resource available in the world to maintain the operational efficiency of Ukraine’s MiG-29 and Su-25 has decreased significantly.
Because, for example, Poland plans to use their MiG-29s in a newer version with a full modernization of equipment by Elbit Systems until 2026, Bulgaria plans to write off 12 MiG-29 aircraft and three training and combat MiG-29UBs already in 2023 due to their poor condition. And the status of those six MiG-29s, which in theory could be stored in Moldova is not clear yet.
While the "safety margin" for maintaining Soviet aircraft in service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine has not yet been completely exhausted, it is necessary to finally make a political decision to transfer the F-16 to Ukraine as the most massive fighter in the world, having much more spare parts than for the Soviet MiG -29’s.
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