Ukraine Urges US to Send F-16 Fighter Jets to Destroy Russia's S-400 Missile System

Ukraine Urges US to Send F-16 Fighter Jets to Destroy Russia's S-400 Missile System
Ukraine Urges US to Send F-16 Fighter Jets to Destroy Russia's S-400 Missile System

Kiev - Ukraine continues to urge the United States (US) to send F-16 fighter jets that will be used to destroy Russia's S-400 missile defense system. Kiev officials have urged members of the US Congress to pressure President Joe Biden's administration to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

The lobbying took place at the weekend on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Those involved in the talks include Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and US politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties. "They told us they wanted (the F-16s) to suppress enemy air defenses so they could deploy their drones beyond Russian front lines," Senator Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who flew US Navy fighter planes in combat, told Reuters. on Saturday night.

Read Also: 2 Ukrainian Pilots Practice Flying F-16 Fighter in the US

US President Joe Biden last month said "no" when asked whether he would agree to Ukraine's request for Lockheed-Martin's F-16 fighter jets. Biden administration officials, speaking on Sunday, said the United States should focus on providing weapons that can be used immediately on the battlefield, rather than fighter jets that require extensive training. But they have not ruled out supplying F-16s. "Discussions will continue over the coming weeks and months," US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on the CNN program.

Four delegates from the US Senate and House of Representatives (DPR) joined in what members called the largest number of US lawmakers to attend a major European security meeting since it began in 1963, demonstrating clear bipartisan support for Ukraine.

The Ukraine-focused conference took place days before the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion; February 24th. The conference comes as Moscow and Kiev forces have been locked in heavy fighting, mostly in the eastern Donbas region, following a string of Russian defeats.

Kelly and three other US lawmakers who spoke to Reuters about their talks with Ukrainian officials said they believed support was building in Congress to provide Ukraine with the F-16, one of the world's most versatile fighter jets. The Ukrainian air force has adapted the US-made AGM-88 HARM air-to-surface rocket for firing from its Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets.

The rocket enters an electronic transmission from the surface-to-air missile unit's radar. According to Kelly, the Ukrainians said their pilots could more effectively target Russian S-300 and S-400 air defense missile units with AGM-88s if the rockets were fired using the F-16's more advanced avionics. "They thought they needed the plane for the SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) mission," Kelly said. "They probably think they can do a better job of beating the S-400." He said that while it would take at least a year of training to master all of the F-16's capabilities, Ukrainian pilots could be taught to do a limited number of things in a few months.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said US lawmakers broadly support training Ukrainian pilots in the F-16 and said he was confident the Biden administration would agree to do so soon. He said he was not worried the F-16 would escalate the conflict. "Don't worry about provoking [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, worry about beating him," he said on the ABC show.

The call to supply Ukraine with advanced fighter jets follows deals last month by France, Britain, the United States and Germany to supply Kiev with modern battle tanks. Washington has provided some $30 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the start of what Moscow calls "special military operations".

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