Pentagon Won’t Rule Out F-16s for Ukraine: ‘We’re Not Going to Take Anything Off the Table
The Biden administration would not rule out sending F-16s to Ukraine after it announced it was sending 31 Abrams M1A2 tanks.
After President Joe Biden announced the sending of the tanks, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister told Reuters that the country will not push for F-16s. “The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets,” Yuriy Sak told the wire.
Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, when pressed repeatedly at a briefing on Thursday, would not rule out sending the fourth-generation fighter jets.
“We haven’t announced other packages yet,” she said.
She added later that operating the F-16 would require training but again refused to rule them out:
This is a capability that would require training. It would require more people to come off the battlefield to learn a new — an entirely new system. And again, the Ukrainians have proven that they can learn complicated, complex, challenging systems. It is more — in terms of, like, the Abrams, it is more the sustainment, the maintenance when it’s on the battlefield. With the F-16s, again, another challenging system that would require training.
“And I’m not going to get ahead of any announcement cause I don’t have an announcement today. So I’ll leave it at that,” she said.
Singh also said the Biden administration would not rule out any weapons system for Ukraine.
When asked where the “line” is for sending weapons, she responded, “I don’t know that we’ve ever drawn a line. We’ve certainly — you know, we’re not going to take anything off the table here.”
Ukraine had pushed for months for the U.S. to send the Abrams tanks. Defense officials had said for weeks that it was not the right time to send the tanks, due to the time and difficulty it would take to train Ukrainian forces to operate, maintain, and sustain them.
However, the administration did an about face and announced on Wednesday it was sending 31 Abrams M1A2 tanks. However, they also said they would purchase them versus take them from U.S. military stocks as with other weapons it has given Ukraine, stretching the delivery time to months, if not years.
The announcement did, however, assuage German concerns over sending and allowing allies to send Ukraine German Leopard 2 tanks, which are also more advanced than anything Ukraine has but would be easier for Ukrainian forces to operate than the Abrams tanks.
The Biden administration has given Ukraine more than $27 billion in military equipment since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.