The commander of the US Air Force in Europe and Africa, General Jeffrey Lee Harrigyan, said at a press briefing in New York that it was necessary to supply Ukraine with American military aircraft. According to him, the appearance of overseas vehicles in the Ukrainian Armed Forces divisions will increase the level of interoperability of the air forces of the two states.

“One of the most important areas of our work throughout Europe is to increase interoperability ... What does an American airplane do? Potential for US interoperability. Very easy compatibility. And when it comes to tactical accomplishment (tasks), this is very, very important, ”Ukrinform quoted the Harrigyan newspaper as saying.

The American general noted that last year’s Clear Sky exercise in western and central Ukraine laid the foundation for "long-term cooperation" between Washington and Kiev. The maneuvers, which took place from October 8 to 19, were attended by Su-27, F-15C Eagle fighters and C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft.

Harrigyan noted that after the annexation of Crimea to the Russian Federation in 2014, the theater of operations in Eastern Europe has changed a lot. In this regard, the US Air Force was forced to reconsider its view on the "operational space" in the region.

In an interview with RT, an expert at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Sergey Ermakov explained that in the past five years, the United States has been using Ukraine as a springboard for intelligence operations and other provocative actions against the Russian Federation.

“Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but for the United States it has a certain military significance. Apparently, Harrigyan’s words about the need for interoperability are connected with this. From Ukrainian airfields it’s convenient to launch drones, airplanes, deploy tracking and warning stations, ”the expert said.

Quality deficit

Earlier, the media in the United States and Ukraine repeatedly disseminated reports about the possible delivery of the APU of the American F-16 Fighting Falcon light fighter aircraft.

In July 2019, the head of the American expert center of the Jamestown Foundation, Glen Howard, suggested that airplanes could be transferred as part of the US military's military assistance program. In his opinion, without the support of the US, the Ukrainian Air Force "is aging extremely quickly, and they lack spare parts." According to press reports, Washington may allocate $ 250 million to support the Ukrainian armed forces this year.

  • Attack aircraft Su-25 Ukrainian Air Force
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The Ukrainian Air Force is armed with MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters, Su-25 attack aircraft and Su-24 front-line bombers. All cars were produced back in the Soviet Union. No combat vehicles were produced on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR. Ukrainian industry specialized in the production of transport aircraft and aircraft engines.

There is no exact data on the number of aircraft and their technical condition in the public domain. The Ukrainian media previously published information that the country's air force has from 130 to 200 aircraft.

The main problem Ukraine has encountered is the lack of high-quality components manufactured by Russia. The situation with spare parts was noticeably complicated for Kiev after the break in military-technical cooperation with Moscow.

One of Ukraine’s unfriendly steps towards Russia was the decision of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) “On the application and amendment of personal economic and other restrictive measures”. According to the document, in June 2018, the Ukrainian authorities replenished the sanctions list and imposed restrictions against 14 individuals and 30 legal entities of the Russian Federation.

After Petro Poroshenko put into effect the NSDC decision, the Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant (LGARZ) encountered problems in the implementation of the modernization of the MiG-29. The management of the enterprise stated that it had lost legal ways to acquire spare parts in the Russian Federation. Despite this, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine continues to sue LGARZ due to the failure of the contract to upgrade the MiG-29.

Commenting on this situation, Ilya Tarasenko, General Director of MiG RSK, said that the Lviv enterprise cannot qualitatively upgrade fighters, since it does not have original factory documentation. Attempts by Kiev to modernize the MiG-29, he called illegitimate.

“I can say that Ukraine is really trying to modernize MiG aircraft at its plants, but it is illegitimate, without relevant technical documentation. This directly affects not just the quality but the safety of the aircraft, ”Tarasenko said.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian online publication reported that the operational life of the APU combat fleet will expire in 2025. Given that it takes five years to train pilots, journalists believe that Kiev needs to conclude a contract for the supply of new aircraft no later than 2020.

In a conversation with RT, the columnist for Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine Dmitry Drozdenko emphasized that the only source of licensed and high-quality spare parts for Ukrainian aircraft is in Russia. But in the conditions of breaking contacts on the military-technical line, "combat aircraft of Ukraine will inevitably degrade."

“As far as I understand, Kiev bought and continues to acquire some of the components for the same MiG-29 in Eastern Europe. But all these products and units can be called counterfeit. By installing low-quality components, Ukraine poses a huge risk to the life of pilots, ”said Drozdenko.

First money, then airplanes

F-16 - the most massive fourth-generation fighter. In addition to the United States, it is operated by Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Denmark, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, Indonesia and other countries.

The cost of one fighter in the basic configuration is about $ 50 million. Used samples are sold at a lower price. Some countries in Eastern Europe, for example, Poland and Slovakia, have already acquired the F-16 to replace Soviet fighters.

  • Su-27 pilots of the Ukrainian Air Force
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Some Ukrainian military experts suggest that Kiev may agree with the United States on licensed aircraft manufacturing or a step-by-step modernization program. The latter involves the gradual replacement of equipment and weapons delivered from the United States F-16 to the analogues of the country of the operator. Official Kiev does not comment on the possibility of buying and producing foreign aircraft.

Sergei Ermakov believes that Washington may approve the supply of fighter jets to Ukraine as part of the current military assistance program. In his opinion, the United States is interested in expanding the market for its military products, including at the expense of Kiev.

“Ukraine receives US military assistance in the form of US-made weapons. In principle, nothing is stopping Washington from starting shipping the F-16. However, a large number of aircraft cannot be transferred under the program, and there are hardly any funds in the budget of Ukraine for the purchase of a large batch of fighters, ”the expert emphasized.

According to Ermakov, “aviation equipment, including used equipment, is very expensive - sets of weapons and spare parts are always supplied with aircraft, training of pilots and technical personnel is carried out, new infrastructure is being built.”

In turn, Dmitry Drozdenko believes that "the United States and European countries will under no circumstances provide free aid to Ukraine." The expert recalled that to date, Western states are not concerned about the renewal of the fighter fleet of their East European NATO allies.

“Americans and Europeans are not very concerned about the degradation of the air forces of the former states of the socialist camp. In some of them, one or two squadrons are in combat readiness. If you need new planes - increase the military budget and buy. Therefore, Kiev has no reason to rely on any leniency, let alone preferences. Any deliveries of aircraft will be made only for money, ”Drozdenko summed up.