KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine will not be able to give up Soviet aircraft in favour of Western ones overnight, and French military jets may coexist on Ukrainian airfields with American and Soviet ones, the head of the Ukrainian Air Force said on Sunday.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February, 2022, Kyiv has pressed Western allies to supply increasingly sophisticated arms and ammunition, including armoured vehicles, tanks, long-range missiles and U.S.-made F-16 fighters.
The first F-16 jets are expected to arrive in Ukraine later in 2024, although their impact on the war could be limited by the strength of Russia’s air force
Ukraine’s ground forces commander said on Friday that Kyiv needed more military aircraft for its war effort, such as U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets to support infantry and planes that could fire long-range cruise missiles.
The commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, Mykola Oleshchuk, says that not only American A-10s, but also French Dassault Mirages may come into service in Ukraine.
“Therefore, along with F-16s, MiG-29s will also operate in the sky, and it is possible that the combat capabilities of Su-24M bombers will be enhanced by Mirage-2000D, and Su-25 attack aircraft will be strengthened by A-10 Thunderbolt II,” Oleshchuk said on Telegram messaging app.
Mirage 2000 is a French multi-role, single-engine, fourth-generation jet fighter.
“The priority today, of course, is the F-16, for which Ukrainian pilots are already being retrained. However, our experts are also studying other opportunities to increase the combat potential of aviation in general,” Oleshchuk said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in September he had struck a “very important agreement on training our pilots in France” in conversation with President Emmanuel Macron.
He did not elaborate on what training would be undertaken. France does not have the F-16 fighter jets Ukraine has recently been promised by Denmark and the Netherlands. It does have French-made Rafale warplanes and previous-generation Mirage 2000 jets.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Sharon Singleton)