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Ukraine conflict: Analysis – Momentum builds for Western fighter transfers to Kyiv

An increased willingness from the West to supply Ukraine with advanced modern weaponry could now see the much-anticipated transfer of combat aircraft such as the F-16. (US Air Force)

Momentum is building for a long-awaiting transfer of Western combat aircraft to Kyiv, with at least one NATO country stating publicly it stands ready to respond to Ukrainian requests.

With the seemingly intractable issue of the transfer of main battle tanks having been resolved with the announcement by the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on 25 January that he will allow his country and allies to send Leopard 2s to Ukraine, attention is now shifting to the potential supply of fighter aircraft.

Prior to the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine fielded a range of Soviet-era combat aircraft that it inherited in 1991. These comprised 50 MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum', 33 Su-27 ‘Flanker', 12 Su-24 ‘Fencer', 25 Su-25 ‘Frogfoot', and 34 L-39 aircraft as listed in Janes World Air Forces . Although the Ukrainian Air Force has been able to maintain combat operations over the 10 months of the war so far, it has certainly suffered a high attrition rate that has seen the highest levels of the Ukrainian government make repeated requests of its Western allies to provide it with replacement aircraft.

Initially, these requests centred on the Soviet-era types it already had experience of operating – in particular, the MiG-29, which is still flown by former Warsaw Pact members Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovakia. While allies were reportedly interested in transferring these aircraft to Ukraine, several efforts to do so came to nothing.

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