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US Air Force chief comments on impact of F-16s in Ukraine – Reuters

Frank Kendall acknowledged that US-made fighter jets would not be a game-changer for Kyiv

US Air Force chief Frank Kendall has poured cold water on claims that the F-16s will have a significant impact in helping Ukraine defeat Russian forces, admitting that the fighter jets of American-made would not be a “game changer” for Kyiv because air power does not play a decisive role in the conflict.

The F-16s “will give the Ukrainians an increment of capacity that they don’t have right now”, Kendall said Monday at an event in Washington. “But that’s not going to be a huge game-changer, as far as I’m concerned, for their total military capabilities.”

After announcing for months that the United States would not supply F-16s to Kiev, President Joe Biden’s administration indicated last week that it would help Ukraine procure the planes. No decision has been made on whether Washington will send the F-16s directly or simply let European allies provide them, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday. Regardless, the United States will support a joint international training program to prepare Ukrainian pilots to fly the jets.

Ukrainian officials have been trying for months to persuade their Western benefactors to supply F-16s, arguing they will have a major impact in the conflict with Russia. In fact, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yury Ignat claimed on Saturday that when kyiv adds F-16s to its armament, “we are going to win this war.”

However, Kendall said US-made jets would not alter the balance of power in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict because effective air defense systems would prevent them from playing a major role in deciding the outcome. He acknowledged that providing F-16s would be “considered by some to be an act of escalation on our part.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko warned on Saturday that Western powers were clashing “colossal risks” themselves by continuing to intensify their involvement in the conflict. Biden claimed on Sunday that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky had pledged not to use the F-16s on Russian territory.

Moscow warns of fallout from F-16 deliveries to Kyiv

Kendall said it would take at least several months to get the jets into Ukrainian hands, but either way the decision to supply them would help move away from the country’s dependence on planes Soviet type.

“Ukraine will remain an independent nation”, he predicted. “It’s going to take a full suite of military capabilities, so it’s time to start thinking longer term about what that army might look like and what it might include.”

The F-16 is not among the most advanced American combat aircraft. The first version of the aircraft entered service in 1979.

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