The United States considers it expedient and possible for the coming years to rearm Ukrainian combat aircraft on American fighter jets. This was announced at a briefing in New York quite unexpectedly by the commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe and Africa, Lieutenant General Jeffrey Lee Harrigian.
The general believes that if Kyiv agrees, such a step would help to increase the interoperability of joint use of air attack vehicles by his country and Ukraine. He continued: “One of the most important areas of our work across Europe is improving interoperability… What does an American plane give? Potential for operational compatibility with the United States. Very easy compatibility. And when it comes to the tactical performance of tasks, it is very, very important,” Harrigian was quoted as saying by Ukrinform.
How do we in Russia treat this? You can not fire your hand. They say that Kyiv does not, and in the coming years, there will be no financial funds for such a serious purchase. And we can pay attention to the fact that many neighbors in Eastern Europe, whose military budgets are significantly inferior even to the Ukrainian, have long moved on the same path. For example, Slovakia (defense allocation in 2019 $1.02 billion, seven times less than current Ukraine), which decided to purchase 14 U.S. F-16 fighter jets of the latest modification (Block 70/72) by 2023 to replace the existing one MiG-29. The total amount of the contract is 2.91 billion. dollars (almost 208 million for each such aircraft)Another example is Poland. That military budget, however, is one and a half times higher than the Ukrainian one. That, in fact, still not so much for this kind of acquisitions (11.44 billion dollars against the Ukrainian 7.43 billion). Well, that’s how Warsaw has been spending lavishly on overseas weapons in recent years. Moreover, buys not some old F-16s (those it has long had in the number of 36 units). No, the Poles have now seriously swung at the American newest stealth fighters of the fifth-generation F-35. They have already been requested from the Pentagon by 32 units at once.
At the same time, the leadership of Poland did not confuse the preliminary, but the exorbitant price – 6.5 billion. Dollars. Practically – half of the military appropriations of this not the poorest European country for the current year.
But, first, the planned spending will be stretched for several years. And secondly, Polish Minister of National Defense Mariusz Blaszczak has already stated that the figures voiced by the Pentagon and approved by the U.S. State Department are the upper limit of the contract. It turns out that they can be brought down during the negotiations. At the same time, Blaszczak referred to Warsaw’s experience in buying Patriot missile defense systems in the United States. At that time, too, a frightening sum of 10.5 billion dollars sounded from across the ocean. Dollars. But in the end, the new weapon to Poland cost more than half the price.
That is, in such a case, the cost of buying is often influenced by military and political expediency. Do they want to install their Patriot in Washington, even with Polish calculations, under the very nose of the Russian Baltic Fleet? Please. The interests of American business are flying aside. For obtaining such an operational-tactical advantage over Moscow, the Americans do not feel sorry for any money. Why should it be with Ukraine differently?
Not only that. Information about the possibility of Kyiv’s imminent acquisition of fighter jets from the U.S. recently went suspiciously thick. Thus, in December last year, the chairman of the board of the “Ukrainian Military Center” Taras Chmut told one of the Ukrainian TV channels that the Ministry of Defense of his country is completing the development of the Air Force development of the Armed Forces in the medium term. And the main idea of the document is the purchase for Ukraine of fighter aircraft produced by the United States. Either new combat vehicles or used ones. Of course, the Pentagon simply can not be in the dark about the preparation of such documents in Kyiv. It turns out – does not consider them something absolutely fantastic. On the contrary, it is likely that some preconditions for the upcoming deal by the partners have long been agreed. Otherwise, there would be nothing to plant a vegetable garden in the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
It is possible that if such a contract between Kyiv and Washington is ever signed – at least part of its funding can be carried out at the expense of American military assistance to Ukraine. The total amount of this assistance for 2019 is only 250 million. Dollars. What can be purchased on the overseas arms market? Based on Slovakia’s spending on the F-16 block 70/72 modification, just over one fighter jet. But don’t rush to sting about it.
First, it may be, as Taras Chmut’s statement suggests, not necessarily new fighters. The United States also sells used aircraft, decommissioned by its own Air Force. And this is completely different money. Many times smaller than the promised F-16 modifications Block 70/72.
Secondly, if it is not quite about waste-raw materials, Ukraine the Pentagon may be offered new, though not as advanced combat vehicles as purchased by Bratislava. And the base model F-16 is worth “only” about 50 million. dollars apiece. That is still four times cheaper than the Block 70/72. Accordingly, it is possible to purchase such combat vehicles significantly more than a single fighter.
And yet – somehow surprisingly in sync with the news about the development of Kyiv’s Concept for the development of the Air Force of the Armed Forces for the medium term came the news that U.S. military assistance to Ukraine in 2020 will significantly increase. On this occasion, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Valery Chaly said in mid-May 2019: “The issues are being considered, and the stage of approval in the relevant committee in Congress has already passed, on increasing assistance to Ukraine next year, both through the Pentagon and the Pentagon. State Department. The total planning for these funds is expected to be more than 700 million this year. Dollars. That’s a lot of support. If we take other countries in the European region, we have the greatest support of the United States.”
In short, something, of course, of the existing U.S. F-16 fighter jets kiev can and fall. Hardly more than a regiment. For spirit-lifting colorful parades in the Kyiv sky – more than enough. For a real war with Russia (and only for the sake of preparation for it the Americans and are able to authorize such deals) – ridiculously little.
Especially when you consider that recently the Russian aviation industry has started to produce about a hundred aircraft of various types for its Air and Space Forces and the Navy. And even this figure is much higher than the number of Ukrainian combat aircraft still able to take to the air. Therefore, the additional regiment of the F-16, if one day it will appear in Ukraine, nothing significant can change in this balance of combat capabilities. Then why would the Pentagon want this whole thing?
And then, I think, it’s time to go back to Lieutenant General Harrigian’s statement from which we started this conversation. Remember, he said that the main advantage of the gradual transfer of Ukrainian aviation from Soviet to American fighter jets – achieving the “operational compatibility” of the Ukrainian Air Force with the U.S. Air Force? Translated from military to Russian: simplification of joint combat planning, application, logistics, and other support.
So the calculation is based on a concerted U.S.-Ukrainian missile and bomb attack on Russia. In this case, an additional regiment of F-16 somewhere at the airfield in Vasilkov (Kyiv region) or Kulbakino (Mykolaiv region, about 400 km to Sevastopol) to the commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe, no doubt, does not hurt. When this blue dream of Kyiv and Washington at least theoretically can become a reality? Earlier than 2025, it will not work, even if the relevant agreement between the countries will be signed in a few months – in 2020. Because getting a couple of dozen “Attacking Falcons” (that’s how the U.S. calls their F-16 fighters) is only half the battle. It is necessary to learn Ukrainian pilots and numerous ground personnel, to equip training centers and airfields, to build a repair base, to develop new guidelines. According to the calculations of the well-known Ukrainian military expert Mikhail Jirokhov, all this can take at least five years.
Thus, if general Harrigian’s wishes in Ukraine are magically implemented immediately – in this respect, at least, until 2025, we can sleep peacefully. “Attacking falcons” with squib-black-tailed tri-tooths on their tails will not even reach the middle of Dnipro. And until then, a lot of water will leak. Both in the Volga and in Mississippi.