Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

US signals to allies it won't block their export of F-16 jets to Ukraine

US signals to allies it won't block their export of F-16 jets to Ukraine

The Biden administration has signaled to European allies in recent weeks that the US would allow them to export F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, sources familiar with the discussions said, as the White House comes under increasing pressure from members of Congress and allies to help Ukraine procure the planes amid intensifying Russian aerial attacks.

Administration officials are not aware, however, of any formal requests by any allies to export F-16s, and State Department officials who would normally be tasked with the paperwork to approve such third-party transfers have not been told to get to work, officials said.

A handful of European countries have a supply of the US-made F-16s, including the Netherlands, which has signaled a willingness to export some of them to Ukraine. But the US would have to approve that third party transfer because of the jets' sensitive US technology.

While the US remains reluctant to send any of its own F-16s to Kyiv, US officials told CNN that the administration is prepared to approve the export of the jets to Ukraine if that is what allies decide to do with their supply.

National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby declined to comment specifically on the possibility of the US sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but said broadly that the US has been forward-looking about "future capabilities" and needs. F-16s are "not on the agenda" at the G7, he said, though the aircraft could certainly come up on the sidelines of the summit.

US lawmakers and congressional staffers have joined in the F-16 lobbying campaign, urging the administration to provide the jets so that Ukraine can establish control over its skies.

"As a bipartisan group of lawmakers, we view the transfer of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine as essential for providing Kyiv with the air support capability required to fully defend their nation against Russia's unprovoked, illegal, and brutal invasion, and to make the territorial gains necessary to reclaim their country," a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday that was obtained by CNN.

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