Supplying modern fighter jets to Ukraine would take years – Pentagon

Kiev, however, for its part must be able to “sustain” and “afford” advanced weaponry systems, a top US defense official has said

Washington is still considering supplying modern combat jets to Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with Russia, US Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl has said. No “final decision,” however, has been made on this matter and actual delivery could take “years” to materialize – while Kiev must in turn be able to “sustain” and “afford” advanced weaponry systems, the official told a press briefing on Wednesday.

“As it relates to future aircrafts, fourth generation aircraft, for example, even if we were to provide those now, they wouldn’t arrive for years, so we’ve been focused on, as it relates to their fighter aircraft, on what they need … to support the current efforts to hold in the east and perhaps going on a counter offensive,” Kahl explained, pointing to the recently approved delivery of air-to-surface missiles that can be used by warplanes remaining in the Ukrainian inventory.

I can tell you that fighter aircraft remain on the table, just no final decisions have been made about that. 

As the potential delivery of warplanes is a matter with an uncertain future, its exact form can take shape only when the ongoing conflict reaches one outcome or another, the official suggested, signaling long-term plans to support Kiev. 

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“It could be a scenario in which the war continues, it could be a scenario in which the violence ebbs because there’s an agreement or because it just dies down a bit,” Kahl stated. “But even in that instance, the Ukrainians are going to need to defend their territory and deter future aggression.”

Still, any weaponry systems, including potential fighter jets, must be sustainable and Kiev must be able to “afford” them, Kahl stressed, suggesting that the lavish Western aid will not be poured into Ukraine forever.

“We’re trying to be very deliberate about what systems we think makes the most sense for Ukraine to have in that context, and also matters very much–can they sustain it?” he said.

Can they afford it? Because, of course, you know, billions of dollars of international assistance is not, you know, may not be something ten years from now, or 20 years from now. 

Russia has repeatedly warned the West against “pumping” Ukraine with weaponry, insisting that the aid would only prolong the conflict rather than change its ultimate outcome. The US remains the top war supplier of Kiev, having funneled billions of dollars in military aid and delivered large batches of assorted weaponry to prop up the Ukrainian military.

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