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The New Ukrainian Air Force

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By stefg74 from Larisa, Greece – HAF Mirage 2000-5 – Low PassUploaded by Alaniaris, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18197409

Most folks have heard about the Mirages…

French President Emmanuel Macron has disclosed plans to transfer Mirage 2000-5 fighters to Ukraine. This follows the recent and unexpected announcement that the Ukrainian Air Force will be getting a pair of Saab 340 airborne early warning and control aircraft from Sweden. It also comes amid an ongoing multi-national effort to supply Ukraine with U.S.-made F-16 Viper fighters.

“Tomorrow we will launch a new cooperation and announce the transfer of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets to Ukraine made by French manufacturer Dassault and train their Ukrainian pilots in France,” Macron said during a televised interview today, according to France 24. The French president was speaking following commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy during World War II.

And Argentina for some reason…

Argentine is considering sending its old French fighter aircraft to Ukraine.

Argentina’s Foreign Minister Diana Mondino discussed the possibility of transferring five Super Étendard aircraft with her French counterpart, Stephane Sejourne, the United States’ National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, and unnamed NATO officials on behalf of the President of Argentina Javier Milei, according to a report by Argentinian news site Infobae.

Argentina purchased these refurbished aircraft from France in 2018 but has been unable to maintain them because of an arms embargo that was put in place within a week of the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina, which the UK has maintained ever since.

The Super Étendard fighter aircraft are now considered inoperable, according to Infobae, primarily because the aircraft ejection system can no longer be maintained.

The Mirages will be useful, although we’re talking low dozens as the maximum that could plausibly be transferred. The Super Etendard seems like some kind of elaborate troll that only makes sense to those who travel in far-right political circles; Ukraine does not actually need five ancient, largely inoperable jets. In the meantime, the F-16 transfer project seems to be moving along, albeit at a slower pace than anyone would like.

Two further thoughts… first, the US and NATO could have been much more aggressive on the transfer of these capabilities. Part of the resistance was over concerns about escalation, which have largely turned out to be unfounded. The part of the resistance that remains relevant was the conclusion that fighters were not high priority because they were not likely to change conditions on the battlefield. This is still largely true; the introduction of additional fighters into what has become the densest air defense environment in the history of warfare is unlikely to turn the tide. However, fighters continue to represent a political commitment to Ukraine’s future, will be useful insofar as they can take some of the weight of air defense against drone and missile attacks, will likely impede to some degree Russia’s “glide bomb” offensive tactics, and will open up some opportunities for strikes behind Russian lines.

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