Ukraine intends to press the United States for fourth-generation fighter jets after President Joe Biden agreed to send dozens of top U.S. battle tanks to aid Kyiv’s war against Russia.
The White House announced on Wednesday that it will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine, a major reversal after officials said the tanks were too complicated and high-maintenance for the inexperienced Ukraine military to effectively use. Biden said the tanks symbolized “unflagging commitment” to Ukraine’s cause.
“These tanks are further evidence of our enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of the Ukrainian forces,” Biden said. “As I told President Zelensky when he was here — and today is his birthday, by the way — in December: We’re with you for as long as it takes, Mr. President.”
The tanks will be paid for through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a fund approved by Congress to aid Ukraine. Using the fund will delay Ukraine’s reception of the tanks by months, according to POLITICO.
The Pentagon will procure the tanks as well as support vehicles and supplies to give to the Ukrainians to maintain the battle machines. While the aid is being prepared and shipped, the U.S. will train the Ukrainian military on how to use and maintain the tanks.
“The Abrams tanks are the most capable tanks in the world. They are also extremely complex to operate and maintain,” Biden said. “So we’re also giving Ukraine the parts and equipment necessary to effectively sustain these tanks on the battlefield. We’ll begin to train Ukrainian troops on these issues of sustainment, logistics and maintenance as soon as possible.”
Biden’s announcement seems to have encouraged Ukraine to put in larger requests to the White House. Ukraine’s military leaders now have their eyes on fourth-generation fighter jets from the United States, such as F-16s. The United States has previously denied such requests over the potential for escalating the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow.
“The next big hurdle will now be the fighter jets,” Yuriy Sak, an adviser of Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told Reuters Wednesday.
“If we get them, the advantages on the battlefield will be just immense,” Sak said. “It’s not just F-16s: fourth generation aircraft, this is what we want.”
The Biden administration agreed to send Kyiv Abrams tanks after Germany pressured the United States, insisting it would withhold its own Leopard 2 tanks. The U.S. favored sending Leopard 2s to Ukraine instead of Abrams because the Leopard 2s would be easier for the Ukrainians to operate and maintain.
The Biden administration has also asked Israel to supply Ukraine with Hawk anti-aircraft missiles that Israel purchased from the United States in the 1960s. Israel denied the request, according to Axios.