Iron wings for Ukraine

Kateryna Shtepa, head of the Strategic Planning Department of the Institute of Government Relations (Kiyv, Ukraine)

For almost one year, Ukrainians have been heroically repelling Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022. The Ukrainian people showed the world that the main goal is the restoration of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. We are talking not only about the territories not controlled by Kyiv starting from February 24, 2022, but also about the temporarily occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the annexed the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and the city of Sevastopol, which were illegally declared as subjects of the Russian Federation in 2014. 

Today, Ukraine maintains its defense not only for the sake of its compatriots but also to protect the independence of other states that share common borders with Russia and are not members of NATO, namely: Moldova (at the same time, there is a Russian military enclave under the flag of a peacekeeping mission, according to international estimates, commensurate with the number of Moldovan armed forces – the territory of Transnistria) and Georgia, as well as the countries that have Russian troops and military bases on their territory, namely: the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Syrian Arab Republic. On the territory of the Republic of Belarus, an allied group with Russian troops. In particular, the security of the Black Sea region suffered from Russian aggression, and the architecture of its safety is crumbling to the foundation: NATO defense forces which include the coalition of Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria will hardly be able to dominate without the participation of the English, French, American, and Italian fleets. In order to win the war with Russia, Ukraine needs even more support, which must be based on a greater number of different types of weapons. 

In addition to a tough sanctions policy, we must respond asymmetrically on the battlefield to ensure victory as soon as possible. First of all, Ukrainians are interested in smart and traditional medium and long-range weapons. Counterintelligence and security development tools can contribute to successful military operations. The means of radar signature and electronic warfare remain mandatory for victory. With the help of these techniques, we will be able to determine the coordinates of the enemy and ensure the disorientation of military forces control. Ukraine also needs tanks, which is relevant to American and European military doctrines. 

Ukraine’s armed forces need more weapons, in particular aviation, which can ensure dominance over the enemy in the air. In military art, there are combat and non-combat aviation. Combat aircrafts includes fighter jets, main task of which is to destroy enemy aircraft in the air. Combat bombers are designed to attack ground (underground) or surface (underwater) objects using bombs or missiles. Non-combat aircraft include machines performing reconnaissance and radar functions.

Depending on the type of aircraft, the Ukrainians will be able to establish a temporary or permanent unmanned zone, which will allow us to protect our defensive positions and the civilian population from enemy attacks from the sky. American F-15 and F-16 fighters, as practice shows, can prevent us from interfering with our airspace.

Russia is using Soviet-made aircraft in the war against Ukraine, which today is no longer considered to be the most powerful, but it exists and the enemy still has enough of the reserves. In total, according to 2021 data, the Russian Air Force had 1,585 vehicles, namely Su-24, Su-34, Su-25 bombers and MiG-29 fighters, 124 heavy bombers, and 91 combat aircraft of the Russian Naval Aviation. [1]   The successful use of American fighters against Soviet weapons, as well as Israeli Eagle, which In June 1979 shot down 4 Syrian MiGs – 21 of Soviet origin, gives hope for the successful military and air operations, which will later lead to fateful positive results in the Russian-Ukrainian war.  

 American multipurpose fighters of the fourth generation F-16 were created to complete dominance in the air, so it is not surprising why this particular aircraft dominates the Soviet machines. This aircraft is considered to be the basis of the air force. The F-16 is relatively inexpensive, has a simplified configuration, only one engine, and uses less fuel. This type is believed to be a defensive weapon but it can carry out precision bombing if necessary. It is precisely because of this versatility that the F-16 is so desirable for Ukrainians.

The F-15 Eagle is considered no less effective because during the entire period of combat use it won 108 victories and had no losses in the air. Its difference from the F-16 lies in its more complex structure, and greater use of fuel, but despite this, it is faster and it is able to perform combat tasks in any weather conditions.

Such countries as Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, South Korea, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the USA, and Venezuela are armed as F – 16. America confirmed its cooperation with them back in the Cold War years and these are the countries that supported the American-European alliance of democracies. If Ukrainian interests coincide with American political views, then we can count on aviation from the USA. Another option for Ukraine to get is planes to be handed over by a third country that has permission for this from the country – manufacturer – America. For example, the government of the Nederland is ready to consider the transfer of aviation if Kyiv asks for it. 

American weapons are extremely important for Ukraine, but the European countries also have sufficiently powerful aircraft production that will help bring our joint victory over the Russian regime, which threatens many countries. For example, the Eurofighter Typhoon is a multipurpose fighter that participated in the international military operation in Libya in 2011, closing the sky over the civilian population. Modernized Typhoons can not only close the sky from air attacks but also strike at enemy points. This fighter is distinguished by its ease of maintenance and operation, but it is many times more expensive than the American F-16. 

Ukraine is also interested in Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighters. They are attractive for their cost in the international market because they are cheaper than American planes. The arsenal of weapons is wide and will allow the use of various types of missiles. Sweden is not a member of NATO and can independently regulate its defense matters, which means that the negotiation process should be easier since the arms transfer involves only two countries.

Of course, when our partners will be able to transfer aviation to Ukrainian pilots, it will take time to master the new machine. There is not much time, so another possibility to protect the civilian population and win the war is to use the Soviet jets, we have experience with these planes until we get American or European planes. Many countries still have these machines and they can provide us with them if, in exchange, our partners offer them a better option in the form of European or American planes.

The main question is how much aviation America and Europe will be able to give us soon, for us to dominate the sky, completely or at least partially. For example, the largest number of F-16s is in America, which is approximately 500 aircrafts,  in Poland – 36, Belgium – 48 [3]. More than 580 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft have been successfully delivered to the nine customer nations: Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Austria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar [4]. So the probability that we will get enough planes to cover our large, compared to European countries, territory is huge, because there are not so many of these planes in the world.

Immediately behind the aircraft, we need the latest and most effective air defense systems to ensure the integrity and safety of aviation from our partners. For greater safety of new aircraft, we need piloted and unmanned means of attack on legitimate military goals. 

Kateryna Shtepa, student of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Head of the Strategic Planning Department of the Institute of Government Relations (Kiyv, Ukraine)


  1. Скільки бойових літаків має РФ та якими є перспективи російської військової авіації. URL:
  2. Netherlands would consider helping Ukraine with F-16 fighters, Leopard 2 tanks. 
  3. «The Military Balance 2019» p. 52, 56, 57, 90, 137.
  4. The Eurofighter Typhoon