The pilot, who uses the callsign Juice, told Sky News he would love to fly a British Typhoon but the American-made F-16 jets – which are operated by multiple countries – would provide “quality and quantity”.
A Ukrainian fighter pilot said he would be happy to fly a British Typhoon jet but he does not know how realistic that would be given how expensive and limited in number they are.
The aviator, who uses the callsign Juice, said by contrast the American-made F-16 – operated by multiple countries across the world – would be the ideal solution to make the Ukrainian air force more deadly when its pilots go up against Russian targets.
Ukraine’s ageing fighter planes, such as the SU25 and the MiG29 – which is the aircraft that Juice operates – are good pieces of kit but they are limited in their ability to inflict damage by outdated radars, bombs and missiles, the pilot said.
“You can be a very professional pilot, but without the proper tools, without the proper hardware, you can’t do anything to do increase your probabilities [of success]. So you need these proper tools to be really deadly,” he said in an interview with Sky News.
Asked what aircraft he would like for Ukraine, Juice said: “The F-16 is the most optimal choice of not only quality but also quantity of the available airframes in Europe and even in the other countries.
“We need to get them very quickly and they should be ready to go.”
As for the possibility of Royal Air Force Typhoon jets, Juice said he would love to fly the fourth-generation aircraft but he explained why he thought such an option was unlikely.
“It’s a very capable jet. But at the same time, it’s very expensive and very limited in the number of available platforms. So actually, I will be happy to fly the Typhoon, but I don’t know how realistic this plan could be. Let’s see.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for British and other western jets when he made a surprise visit to the UK, Paris and Brussels this week.
Rishi Sunak pledged that nothing was off the table. But in reality the Royal Air Force has very little to offer in an meaningful or sustainable capacity following decades of cuts.
The Typhoon jets that have been converted to be able to attack targets on the ground as well as in the air – a multirole function that Ukraine is seeking – come with a long logistics and support chain making them hard to maintain.
The UK also only has a limited number of the jets itself.
Juice, who has flown multiple sorties in his MiG-29, said the outdated radar and missiles on his aircraft makes it very difficult to shoot down targets such as Russian drones and missiles.
He also said that Ukraine only has a finite supply of jets, ammunition and pilots – stressing the urgency for additional support from western partners especially as Vladimir Putin’s forces ramp up their attacks.
“Unfortunately, Russians still have a lot of a lot of people, a lot of vehicles, a lot of artillery… and jets as well.
“We need to keep defending our airspace, our ground forces and our sea and that’s why we need capabilities to be effective.”
Air Marshal Edward Stringer, a former Royal Air Force fighter pilot, agreed that the UK would probably not be sending jets.
“The Typhoon is complicated. There is not the full European supply chain as there is for the F-16s,” he said.
“For me the only viable option is the F-16 because they build them in their thousands. A lot of NATO countries use F-16s and are now getting rid of them.
“So they are valuable as an aeroplane, but they’re not valuable in cash terms and air forces can afford to donate those.”
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