Stephen Blank, A Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute thinks that upgrading Ukraine’s Air Force with F-15 and F-16 fighter jets could deter Russia.
Ukraine is back in the international headlines thanks to alarm over a major Russian military build-up close to the Ukrainian border. In this situation, Stephen Blank thinks that U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration must provide advanced F-15 fighter jets to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Air Force is in urgent need of an upgrade. Ukraine’s public debate over how to revive the UAF has reached a consensus that Western-built jets armed with modern smart munitions are needed, along with Western air defense capabilities.
Ukraine’s best air force assets at present are two under-strength fighter brigades of around fifty Su-27 FLANKERs, equivalent to the US F-15C. Around thirty are believed to be operational. Its next best asset is a fighter brigade of smart munition-capable Su-24 FENCERs, the “Soviet F-111” and workhorse of Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria. At best, around thirty of these planes are currently believed to be operational.
The largest fighter assets Ukraine has are three under-strength fighter brigades of around 80 MiG-29 FULCRUMs, equivalent to the US F-16. Finally, one brigade of the Su-25 FROGFOOT or “Soviet Warthog” is employed for ground attack
Ukraine lacks key air defense capabilities such as Airborne Early Warning and Control, aerial refueling tankers, digital datalink terminals to network these, modern smart munitions, air launched cruise missiles, and reconnaissance and targeting pods to support these.
There are no challenges in providing Airborne Early Warning and Control, aerial refuelling tankers, datalinking equipment, cruise missiles or smart munitions, or in replacing Ukraine’s lightweight MiG-29s and Su-25s. Mothballed F-16Cs, E-2C-2000 Hawkeyes and KC-135 tankers are abundant in AMARG storage. New or refurbished F-16C and European fighters could also be supplied.
The challenge is in replacing the long-range, heavy-hitting Su-27 and Su-24 fighters. The only Western alternative that can replace them is the US F-15, at least one hundred of which are needed for under-strength units. The F-15 has already been publicly proposed by General Drozdov, Chief of Ukraine’s Air Staff.
The need to upgrade Ukraine’s Air Force presents an opportunity for the Biden administration to cause Moscow some genuine pain, in both the real strategic sense and in terms of the long-running propaganda war.
There are many ways of implementing and funding a potential package of air defense equipment for Ukraine, analyst Stephen said.
He explained that the “instant capability” option is to pull mothballed F-15C/D, E-2C-2000, and KC-135R aircraft out of storage and send them to Ukraine, with downstream upgrades for the F-15s as proposed for Japan.
Alternately, the U.S. could supply new build F-15QA or F-15EX jets to Ukraine.