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Not Just F-16: What Types of Aircraft USA Can Provide to Ukraine as Part of Bilateral Agreement

Air formation of F/A-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft / Illustrative photo credit: NATO Allied Air Command
Air formation of F/A-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft / Illustrative photo credit: NATO Allied Air Command
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After the signing of the security agreement between Ukraine and the United States at the G7 summit in Italy on June 13, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi emphasized during a press conference that the agreement includes "important positions [on weapons] for our defense," particularly securing the supply of "fighter jet squadrons to Ukraine."

"I was not mistaken in using the plural 'squadrons,' which will include — but not be limited to — F-16s. We have worked for a long time for this," President Zelenskyi stated. He further highlighted that the agreement addresses specific clauses on Patriot systems.

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The officially released text of the Bilateral Security Agreement between Ukraine and the United States elaborates on this topic. There's a dedicated section on bolstering the Ukrainian Air Force. It outlines the United States' commitment to "procurement of squadrons of modern fighter aircraft," specifying a focus on 4th-generation aircraft, "including, but not limited to, F-16 multi-role aircraft." In addition, the sides will be working on other air domain capabilities like transport, reconnaissance, and unmanned aircraft.

Notably, the modernization of the Ukrainian Air Force will be done "principally through an allied consortium" coordinated by the United States. Besides buying aircraft, the allies will ensure personnel training and supply of weapons for the new assets.

Now, considering it's not just about the F-16 anymore, the potential candidates to appear in the Ukrainian Armed Forces are the American 4th-gen F-15EX and F/A-18 fighters. All European fighter jets should be taken into account, too.

F-15EX / Defense Express / Not Just F-16: What Types of Aircraft USA Can Provide to Ukraine as Part of Bilateral Agreement
F-15EX / Illustrative photo credit: The War Zone

Another important aspect of the agreement pertains to anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense. While the wording lacks specifics, as it broadly commits the US to supporting Ukraine in developing "a layered, integrated air and missile defense system" and "transition to a modern air defense architecture," the underlying meaning is very interesting.

In particular, if this initiative aims to expand Ukraine's capabilities in both tactical and strategic air and missile defense, we should remember that the strategic-level equipment in question is very sophisticated systems created for global conflicts. One example is the Aegis Ashore system with SM-3 missiles, which are pivotal to the U.S. ballistic missile defense strategy in Europe.

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