‘Birds in a cage’? Logistical challenges on cards when Ukraine gets F-16s

·1-min read

In a major U-turn, President Joe Biden said on Friday the US will back giving Ukraine advanced fighter jets including F-16s – days after Britain and the Netherlands promised an “international coalition” to send Kyiv the US-made jets it has long demanded. But analysts warn this will be an immense logistical challenge – from ensuring Ukraine has weapons to carry on the planes to ensuring their delivery does not escalate the conflict beyond Ukraine's borders.

After months of Ukrainian demands for F-16s as Kyiv plans its counteroffensive against Russia, the US finally gave the green light as Biden attended the G7 summit in Japan – a move President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed as a “historic decision”.

Biden said the US "will support a joint effort with our allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s, to further strengthen and improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian Air Force", a senior White House official told AFP.

This marks a quite a U-turn from Washington’s refusals to give Ukraine F-16s. The Biden administration has feared that Kyiv could use the jets to strike targets on Russian soil, thereby dangerously escalating its conflict with a country boasting the world’s largest nuclear weapons arsenal.

But the US has always been keen to balance full-throated support for Ukraine with prudence about escalation – and wariness about the risks is unlikely to go away after Biden’s U-turn.

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