Thursday, June 20, 2024

French Mirage aircraft currently the last addition to the Ukrainian Air Force

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An F-16 from the Turkish Air Force. Photo: Andreea Alexandru / AP / NTB

Of NTB | 07.06.2024 19:13:03

War and conflicts: President Emmanuel Macron promised on Friday that France will give Ukraine Mirage fighter jets of the 2000-5 type, which will cooperate with American-made F-16s from several NATO countries and Russian-made Mig-29s and Sukhoi.

– The integration of the Mirage and F-16 is part of a process that has been going on ever since the invasion. Ukraine is in an almost permanent process of adapting to all the weapons systems the country receives from the West, says Ivan Klyszcz at the International Center for Defense and Security in Estonia.

Many countries’ defense forces struggle with multiple types of aircraft, but Ukraine’s problems are of a different order. The country is in the middle of a war and must at the same time combine the use of modern Western weapons packages and equipment from the days of the Soviet Union, says the researcher.

He also believes that a more modern air force can intercept far more Russian rockets and drones that are currently systematically bombing Ukrainian border areas.

– Ukraine’s military technical experts are very adaptable and good at integrating new systems, says Klyszcz.

Pierre Razoux at the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies points out that most of the airstrikes take place from Russian territory.

– With approval from the West for the use of their equipment, the Ukrainians can manage to create a greater safety distance, so that Russian missiles can be more easily detected and shot down, he says.

James Rands at the private intelligence company Janes says that France is unlikely to place any special restrictions on how Ukraine will use the Mirage aircraft. Macron has said that the transfer of aircraft could take place within five to six months.

Rands says that the first Ukrainian pilot started his training on the F-16 last August and that the first planes will probably be delivered in a month or two, i.e. ten months after the program started.

Nothing has been said from the French side about how many Mirages of this type Ukraine will take over. Greece has some planes and might be able to contribute a little. Razoux believes that Ukraine must have around 30 to 40 aircraft to have an operational effect, i.e. two squadrons.

– The F-16 does air-to-ground attacks, while the Mirage does air-to-air attacks. The two aircraft types complement each other, he says.

But he thinks the French offer is a little out of sync.

– The other NATO countries wanted to coordinate their efforts around the F-16, and I don’t quite understand President Macron’s logic, he says.

Against this backdrop, Sweden decided not to supply Ukraine with its Gripen aircraft to avoid further confusion and mix-up of systems, although several Ukrainian pilots have been training on this type of aircraft for quite some time.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been demanding Western systems for several months, and Ukraine is gradually gaining access to more. The president hopes that an upgraded air force will force the Russians to move their heavy artillery away from the front.

A coalition of eleven countries was formed last July to train Ukrainian pilots in the use of the F-16. A number of large and small NATO countries have promised to contribute to Ukraine’s new air force. Zelenskyy said in May that Ukraine needs up to 130 F-16s to effectively counter the Russian air force.

Léo Péria-Peigné of the French Institute of International Affairs says that 20 Mirage seems to be the maximum Ukraine can expect.

(© NTB)

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