The big news over the past few days has centred on President Zelensky’s visit to the UK. Although clearly weeks if not months in the planning, the general public only learned of it just before it took place.
Zelensky is a bit of a celebrity in the UK these days and his visit had all the aspects of a proper state visit minus the pomp and ceremony; met by Rishi Sunak on landing, addressing both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall, an audience with King Charles, and then down to Dorset, again accompanied by the PM, to visit Ukrainian troops in training. It’s clear he was a very welcome guest.
His purpose, I think, was twofold; first to tell the British public and politicians how much Ukraine appreciated their support in the war to date, and second to ask them that it should continue and not fall victim to war-weariness and focus shifting to other issues. In this I think, for the time being at least, that he was successful.
A major theme in his visit was his request for modern fast jet fighters from the west. It is obvious to me and other commentators that without them it will be very difficult for the UkrAF to transition from mainly defensive operations to the offensive ones required to clear the Russians from their land.
Air superiority is a prerequisite for successful operations by manoeuvring armoured formations; without it they are very vulnerable to attack from above. So to go on the offensive they need better, more modern aircraft that their enemy, and they need them quickly and in numbers.
As I have written too many times before, the obvious candidate is the US F-16 Fighting Falcon. Although first introduced into service in the 1970s, it has been continuously upgraded since and is probably superior in almost all aspects to current Russian models, with the exception of their most modern ones. It has also been widely adopted by European nations, is available in quantity, and is altogether good enough for the purpose.
Why the USA is reluctant to countenance its issue to Ukraine is beyond me, for it must already be well-known to Russia and it is no longer the NATO aircraft of choice anyway, having been largely superseded by more modern and sophisticated aircraft. And as for fear of escalation, well, the war is pretty escalated already, isn’t it?
Lt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available now
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