Washington mulls F-16 aircraft production boost for Ukraine
After controversially deciding to send main battle tanks to Ukraine to boost its embattled military, the US is considering ramping up production of F-16 fighters to send to Ukraine, says a report in the Financial Times (FT).
A news report in FT on Thursday quotes Frank St John, the chief operating officer of Lockheed Martin, which builds the F-16, as saying that there was “a lot of conversation about third party transfers of F-16s”, which implies that countries would re-export American aircraft that they have to boost Ukraine’s ability to defend its airspace against Russian fighters.
St John stated that Lockheed Martin would be “ramping production of F-16s in Greenville (South Carolina) to get to the place where we will be able to backfill pretty capably any countries that choose to do third-party transfers to help with the current conflict”.
So far, the US has rebuffed Kyiv’s appeals for high-tech fighters on the ground that they could be used to strike targets on Russian territory, which would escalate the conflict.
Any country that transferred F-16 to Ukraine, including close political allies of the US, would first have to obtain permission from the American administration.
Interestingly, Lockheed Martin has separately announced its intention to transfer the F-16 line from the US to India, if IT were declared the winner of the Indian Air Force (IAF) tender to supply over a hundred fighters to India.
European allies of the US, such as Warsaw, offered at the start of the war to send its Soviet-era MiG-29 fighters to Kyiv, provided the US replenished the strength of the Polish air force with the latest F-16 fighters.
There are eight European countries that fly the F-16, and they would be glad for an opportunity to trade those in for more advanced variants of the fighter.
Lockheed Martin weaponry has played an important part in Kyiv’s success in holding the Russian military at bay. The weapons systems being used in Ukraine include the high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS), guided multiple launch rocket system (GMLRS), Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system.
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