Congress Gets Report On Sending Fighters To Ukraine


While the official government position is that there is no position on sending fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian military, Congress now has a comprehensive report on things it might consider on the topic. The U.S. Naval Institute has released a copy of a report by the Congressional Research Service that goes over the pros and cons of supplying Ukraine with fighters and the myriad logistical, financial and political considerations of doing so. The report was apparently delivered to Congress on March 17.

Entitled Transferring Fighter Aircraft to Ukraine: Issues and Options for Congress, the report even delves into the strategic considerations of such a move and how those aircraft might be employed. It also includes a section on whether such a transfer is “in the U.S. interest.” The report does not assume that the aircraft involved would be American, but it does consider that possibility and delves into the details of training, logistics and maintenance along with the weapons that might work best.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Our leaders need to reign in their egos. Too complex a situation to discuss here in this format. But this gradual escalation is wise? Really? Putin is a criminal of course. So….?
    So we should put Europe and our world at risk for what goal? Really? Most educated Russians hate Putin. But they do not have a Bill of Rights like we do to counterbalance actions such as we see Putin doing. They have their problems, why not let them solve their problems? We really need to have another war? Maybe our race needs another blood bat? Who wants that?

    • May be a new war in wich democracy and the full consagration of a bill of rights in every contry is something worth to happen, in site of the horrible number of deaths it wil cause. We must not forget that the free ocidental nations are, more and more, loosing everything. We shouldn’t let the dictators win, whatever is the cost.

    • What would we do if Russia started supplying Mexico with fighters to attack us? We all think Putin is a maniac, but he’s in a corner and that’s dangerous. We should be working toward a negotiated settlement over the territory. It’s unrealistic to think that we’re going to return to the 2014 Borders. As a 20 year military veteran, I can honestly say I am not in favor of sending one more mother’s son to die in a war that we don’t have the stomach to win.

  2. Sending our American built fighter aircraft to a country, Ukraine, whether it be an independent nation or under Russian rule is a dangerous escalation that creates a threat to our national security. Here we go again involving ourselves increasingly in a civil war fight that is not ours, the outcome of which matters not one way or the other to the USA. Will the politicians ever learn? Vietnam mattered not to us. It was an incredible waste of life and equipment. Same for Afghanistan. Now Ukraine. Supplying Land warfare equipment or land-based air defense equipment is one thing but fighter aircraft is an entirely different story. This is a dumb and dangerous idea that should be summarily rejected.

      • ….and in 1994 Ukraine and Belarus signed an agreement with Russia that would allow them to be independent of Russia in exchange for handing their Nukes over to Russia. So much for that!

  3. While I have great sympathy for the comments above on not sending fighters, Europe is one of America’s problems. If Putin gets away with invading Ukraine, like he did with other parts of eastern Europe, then he will continue, smaller states first, then larger ones. Eventually America will be involved or loose its greatest allies (yes, Europe need to do more for itself but thats a slightly different argument). Pre WW2 the talk was of not getting involved/appeasement etc and look what happened after. Being a world power means being involved in the world. Which do you want – democratic nations or dictatorships? I can guess what the Russians would like, same as what Ukraine is fighting for.

    • I have seven good reasons that the United States should not be involved in Ukraine: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Benghazi, and Mogadishu. Lots of blood, sweat, tears, and treasure wasted for what? On top of that those reasons, we have no accountability where the munitions we have sent are ending up (Africa?) or all the $$$.

      Face it, there no good guys in this conflict whether its Putin, Brandon, Zalensky, NATO, or the EU.

      • I hate to say this but I agree. In 1956 the US did nothing to stop the Soviets from squashing a rebellion in Hungary. Happened again in 1968 in what was then Czechoslovakia. Since Ukraine is not in NATO, I don’t want to expend manpower to protect Ukraine itself. The first mistake was helping Ukraine dispose of the nuclear weapons they got from the Soviet Union breakup. Every time we have meddled in another country’s affairs since Vietnam, we have come out with nothing to show for our military personnel sacrifices. Of course if a NATO country is attacked it becomes a whole new situation. BTW, the NYT published an article that it would take 12 years to replenish all the ammo and other US munitions given to Ukraine at present production rates. So much for what is left of our defense production infrastructure!

  4. This is a “sticky wicket”. Putin’s annexation of Crimea and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is reminiscent of Hitler’s actions leading to WW II. And we all know how that turned out. The Axis powers of WW II behaved similarly to the way that Russia is behaving now. China’s recent actions in support of Russia are not exactly comforting. Unfortunately, both of these nation’s governments are quite willing to disregard the individual freedoms,liberties, and actual lives of their citizens. (similar to the disturbing trend in this country, with states all to willing to remove the rights of it’s citizens). There is no “easy” answer as the risks of pain and death are forbidding. Narcissism and sociopathic behaviors, unfortunately, are all too common. Combined with high intelligence, humans with these traits can rise to positions of power, resulting in the ruination of millions, if not yet billions of lives. In short, this type of behavior is played out locally,nationally, and internationally. This problem has been occurring for thousands of years. It appears to be an endemic human trait that is extremely difficult to stop.

    • We could get away with saying that in 1939 because we had the latent industrial capability to defeat Germany and Japan. We no longer have that capability. If we let Russia take Ukraine, then China takes Taiwan. Then the rest of the dominoes will start to fall, only this time, we won’t be able to do anything to stop it. 1930s isolationism cost the US dearly from 1941-45 and in the decades that followed. Isolationism today could end up being catastrophic. Give Ukraine all the HIMARS, Patriots, and Vipers they need because the Russia/China axis powers must be decisively defeated now before it gets any stronger.

    • It’s so sad to see this attitude spread that the USA isn’t strong enough, powerful enough and generous enough to help fight a dictator who is an obvious threat to our long term security. I’m old enough to remember when Americans had the strength and beliefs that led this nation to support others who want to stop dictators. Now we have people who just want to roll over and say, “it’s not our war…” and complain that we “don’t have the money.” And perhaps worst of all believe “it does not help our people.”

      I’m just thankful that these attitudes didn’t prevail in 1939. Instead the leadership at that time believed we are an exceptional nation and we can figure out a way to help those who have been threatened by a dictator. And most importantly, we saw that the threat of a little man driving his tanks to the east was more than just looking for some fields of grain to bolster the national food stocks. Over the subsequent years we saw what a threat the dictator was, that those who whined “it does not help our people” were profoundly mistaken, and thankfully ignored by those making the decisions.

      I guess it’s always good to have these whiners to help keep a check on those who might go too far, but I sure am thankful that we as a nation have decided it is worth supporting our allies in times of need, both for their sake, and for our own national interest.

      • Ironically, Ukraine embodies pure Anti-American values.
        That is why spending Trillions (we don’t have) on a war (not with us) for a country (with a Neo-nazi problem) is insane. It is insane, not some crusade for “The American Way”

      • One difference between now and 1939 is that the leaders had leadership. Ideology and partisanship aside, our “leaders” have been weak in this regard for awhile.

  5. Too bad you didn’t call Zelenski a nazi at the beginning of your collection of sentences, I then wouldn’t have wasted those few minutes of my life reading.

  6. Boy, sure stirred up the Trump acolytes with this one. Couldn’t resist, sorry. Still, in contemplating whether to resist or bug out we’re looking at a decision that very well may later be revealed as a strategic turning point for America, and it behooves us to not blindly decide it as if it were only a tactical choice resting on what is good for one political party or the other.

    Personally, I frame it as a question of which path is best for America long term? It was the decision to take a stand in what became WW-II that placed us firmly in the position of the pack’s big dog for all these decades, and that has certainly been good for us and, arguably, for the world. But big dogs are challenged all the time, and to hold the position means you must either defend it or resign yourself to obedience when the new big dog barks.

    We held it against Russia’s challenge throughout the Cold War and even handed them a huge defeat with the loss of their WW-II won European hegemony. And yes, it was expensive. Now we’re being challenged anew by a China-Russia alliance that together absolutely has the potential to take over the world. In the big dog analogy, “our” pack sees that, and they’re very uneasy about it, watching their big dog for signs of weakness. If we tuck our tail and sidle away in supplication to this latest challenge, what will happen?

    Maybe we should just accept that America’s time is over and that we should back away and cede the world to another power center, but the thing that bothers me about that is that without us the path would appear to lead to a one-power world.

  7. In short, a mistake to send fighters period. For all of the above mentioned reasons. I am a Viet Nam combat veteran, and I have seen what happens when our govt. decides to “intervene.” Call me a Trump acolyte if you wish, but until one views rows of dead Marines laid out on a tarmac in DaNang, or some other place, the real cost cannot be truly understood. The U.S. does not have the money or other resources to continue to be the world’s cop.

    • I disagree with you, but if what you say is true, and is the correct path forward, then you must accept that the U.S. will not be the leader of the free world, is not a superpower and in a few years will become the second or third most powerful country after China and India.

      If you want America to remain the greatest country in the world then fight to keep it that way.

  8. Ultimately the question is simple. Is having Putin invade, conquer and occupy Ukraine in the national security interests of the US ?

    If the answer is no then logically no aid should be given to Ukraine, if the answer is yes then logically all non nuclear equipment is on the table which would include tactical air assets.

    What we have now is the worst of both worlds. Military aid is dribbling in with each tranch seeming a knee jerk reaction to yesterday’s headlines. All sorts of capabilities were off the table until they weren’t.

    As the old military maxim goes “no plan is a plan in itself”.
    My personal opinion is Putin is an existential threat to the world order and allowing him to succeed in Ukraine is giving a green light to China and all the other bad actors in the world. The time for a plan of “no plan” is over, it is time have a plan to give Ukraine the capability to defeat Putin.

  9. “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” – General Patton

  10. I’ve been wondering for awhile why we don’t steal Putin’s excuses, and rollback NATO to the old iron curtain or at least one country away from Russia. Instead have the former Pact countries join together in their own organization, and promise to back them up at a level we find advantageous such as weapons sales, intelligence, and logistics. They can keep him in his box together. Russia can promise to support them against NATO aggression, compete for weapons sales, and let everyone chill for a decade or two.

    At any rate, I don’t see Falcons being that offensively capable today. Ground based Air Defense is proving to be much deadlier than ever before. It seems to me the big lines are combat troops beyond limited advisors and of course, nuclear weapons. We should be giving the Ukrainians what they need to take back Crimea. I believe that is the only way to force Putin to the table in a situation that will lead to peace.

    As for the cost, this is yet another lesson why constant deficit spending is foolish dangerous, and unsustainable. If we are going to continue with so many of our luxurious and unnecessary programs, then complaints about the cost of supporting Ukraine while they reduce our second largest antagonist’s capabilities seem to be somewhat phony. Those who want fiscal discipline have a whole lot of lower hanging fruit to pick.

  11. Precisely, Raf.

    If you see a bully beating up a neighbor’s kid near your home, you have three choices: Do nothing (it’s not your problem … but imagine what you’ll feel like if the kid is hurt … and the bully is emboldened and believes he’s invincible and keeps attacking neighbor kids maybe forming a gang). OR, go up and grab the bully and make a believer out of him/her directly (involving yourself in potential legal problem). OR, you quietly give throw a baseball bat to the victim (you arm proxies to achieve the same end result). The bully is taught a lesson and hopefully stops being a bully in the second or third situation. AND other bullies take note that your ‘hood’ isn’t a good place to cause havoc. Doing nothing is not an option.

    We’ve actually been fighting this sort of situation since the end of WWI when Germany was humiliated and wanting revenge. All it took was a despotic dictator to make use of the power vacuum to gain power. It took 21 years for Hitler to gain power AND build the weaponry — against the tenets of the Treaty of Versailles — to overwhelmingly AND quickly start his plan for World domination. The US — wanting to remain isolationist — basically did nothing other than drip weaponry to our Allies … mostly UK. We also caused economic issues for Japan over oil who — knowing we didn’t want to be involved — thought they could just fly over to Hawaii, neuter our Navy and we’d run away. So two+ years after Poland was attacked, the US finally entered the fray. AFTER WWII, a new adversary arose in the power vacuum … Russia. From 1946 to 1990, we fought them — by a combination of overwhelming power AND use of proxies in proxy wars. Had those NOT been fought, Russia would today be an insurmountable world power and likely would have taken over. In 1989, USSR dissolved precisely because Reagan stood up to them and we were heavily armed plus a reasonable Russian dictator was in power. Quite the opposite, sensing weakness two years ago, ‘ol Vlad decided NOW was HIS time. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is deluding themselves. Go ahead … call me MAGAman.

    How is all of that any different than what’s going on today? It isn’t. Either we’re going to fight Russia and China directly or we can employ proxies to do it for us wherever and whenever a situation dictates. Ukraine is decimating the Russian military predominantly because they have ‘skin in the game.’ We should be glad AND help them. Either they do it or WE do it but sooner or later someone will do it. Else, let’s start learning Mandarin. Any time Vlad waves the “noocular” option it’s cuz he’s getting his conventional butt kicked.

    At a time when the USAF is wanting to divest itself of all sorts of perfectly usable airplanes – A10, F-15 e.g. — why not give some to Ukraine? That’s what the Slovakians and Polish are doing. Imagine two squadrons of A-10’s and F-15’s in the hands of the Ukrainians. Can you spell air dominance?

    Whether you folks agree, or not, we’re already IN WWIII … it just hasn’t reached Hawaii, LA or New York yet. If we do nothing … mark my words … it will. Bullies ONLY learn one way.

    Today, Gen. Milley stated the following at a Defense Budget Hearing (I paraphrase) … “Arming up is expensive but fighting an actual war due to an adversary smelling weakness is MORE expensive.” If we’re not going to do this … what the hell are we building weaponry for … to run an aero club and fly F-22’s, et al, at Airventure and other airshows?

    I look at all of this as the 108 years war … 1914 – 2023. WWI ended when the US entered it. WWII ended when the US ended it. Now, we’re at the cusp of WWIII and faced with three choices.

  12. Zackly what would Ukraine DO with F-18’s? They are not particularly good defensive weapons against the dozens of missiles that Putin launches. And they sure as hell won’t stop a hypersonic vehicle.

    Would they be used to re-engage Russia in the Crimea? Would the Ukraine attack mother Russia? Would they bomb Moscow?

    Scary stuff here. I’m glad I’m old.

    • You make it crystal clear to Ukraine that ANY use of weaponry we give them to directly attack Russia will result in an immediate cessation of any further money OR support. I like to say that the military needs a big closet full of ‘toys’ to pick and choose from when a conflict rears up. The Ukrainians will figure it out. In WWII when Hitler was attacking the Russians, Russians had their own skin in the game … just like Ukrainia does now.

      There are no simple answers … but without weaponry, Ukraine is lost, Putin is emboldened and the world is a less safe place.

      I just heard that an American contractor was killed and five servicemen injured by an Iranian drone attack in Syria. My point is made.

  13. The head of the CIA in 2004 pushed the idea of having Ukraine part of NATO. Russia said this is a provocation and a threat to their existence, it should not happen. NATO pushed the issue forward anyways. This is the provocation that many in The U.S. ignore. In 2008 Obama and his team worked to overthrow Viktor Yanukovych the president of Ukraine at the time. Who took place after the turmoil? The Nazi Zelensky. Yes, descendant of the Nazis that left Germany after WWII in 1945. Zelensky started to do to Russians in Ukraine what Hitler did to the Jews in 1941 onward. The Russians over there kept asking for Russia intervention. In 2014 Zelensky invaded Russia’s territory in Ukraine killing Russians on political agenda. That is when Russia said enough and “invaded” Ukraine. So, history does not start with Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine. It’s the other way around. Ukraine started the invasion.

    Let’s say Russia manipulates to overthrow the president of Mexico to put one they can tell what to do and NATO is OK with that. The “new” president now receives armament from Russia and they are going to invade CA, TX, NM… to get their Mexican territory back. What would America do?

    Wake up guys. Get the facts straight. America is on the wrong side of history. As it was in the Iraq war, Syria and many more. If any leader needs to be overthrown it’s biden. He and his criminal family have a huge stake in Ukraine. Their laundry money machine. America is already on the verge of bankruptcy and the 10% big guy keeps bleeding our money away like there’s no tomorrow.

    This war needs to stop. Sending expensive equipment and our money to a war Russia will fight at any cost is nonsense.

    They will not back down on this threat to their existence.

  14. Does anybody here remember the good old days when we used to hear about or read stories from Pravda and we thought they were so funny because of how outlandish they were? Back in the day Russian propaganda was treated as entertainment.

    Now we either have Russian trolls who decided Avweb is the place to spread their propaganda, or we actually have Americans who believe it. Never thought I’d see the day, especially among the pilot community.

  15. OK this is Europe, 1939 all over again. Putin was crushed when his KGB job went away and has said clearly that his aim is to reconstitute the Soviet Union. If we’re willing to concede one country for a promise of peace, (Munich), we know what happens next. Are we ready to give back the rest (the Baltic states, Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary)? Ukrainians have never liked being Russians. When the Germans invaded in 1941, many Ukrainians saw them as liberators, but quickly learned that Hitler was no improvement over Stalin. I don’t have the technical expertise to say what hardware should or should not be sent, but I do know that our current policy is not working. We need to do what is necessary for Ukraine to win this war, not continue to dribble out just enough for Ukraine to maintain the current stalemate. Otherwise we end up like Europe in 1918. Nobody gained anything and all parties were demoralized and exhausted. And, of course, China comes out on top.