Kyiv appears to have abandoned its quest to fly British fighter jets over Ukraine, instead accepting the UK’s assistance in obtaining the more common, US-made F16 Falcon.
Volodymyr Zelensky paid a ‘surprise visit’ to the United Kingdom on Monday, meeting with Rishi Sunak for “substantive negotiations,” according to the Ukrainian leader.
Zelensky praised the UK for being a “leader when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air,” foreshadowing what he presumably hoped would be the direction of development: despite travelling to European capitals this week, Zelensky has yet to receive donations of Western jet fighters. Ukraine has lately stated its desire to acquire 200 F-16s in order to establish five new squadrons.
On his most recent visit to the UK, President Zelensky thanked the country “in advance” for the British jet fighters he expected to be handed over, even going so far as to present the helmet of a Ukrainian fighter pilot to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, after addressing Parliament.
However, hope for those British jets appears to have died — not least because the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom does not have spare jets — with Ukraine and the UK apparently agreeing to work together from now on to persuade other Western nations to hand over their F16s to help defend against the Russian invasion.
Mr Sunak stated today that the training will include “training Ukrainian citizens to become absolutely combat-ready aircraft pilots,” implying that raw recruits would learn the trade before moving on to become airframe specialists on F-16s.
According to The Times, he also stated that this jet coalition’s training would begin “actually relatively soon” and that “other countries are involved.”
“I’m speaking with those leaders, and I’ll be doing so more this week as part of my foreign commitments. We are eager to form that coalition of countries in order to provide Volodymyr and his people with the aircraft assistance they require.”
Zelensky said of the plan: “Today we spoke about the jets, a very important topic for us because we can’t control the sky… We want to create this jet coalition and I’m very positive with it. We spoke about it and I see that in the closest time you will hear some, I think, very important decisions. But we have to work a little bit more on it.”