The debate about Western fighter jets for Ukraine escalated rapidly, but subsided surprisingly quickly. No sooner had Chancellor Olaf Scholz given the go-ahead for the delivery of Leopard tanks at the end of January than those responsible in Kyiv were already demanding the next load of weapons: primarily fighter jets. Scholz quickly gave a clear no, while other countries were not and are not so squeamish. In the meantime, the Netherlands has not ruled out handing over aircraft to Ukraine – which hardly seems to be worth reporting anymore.
Anyone who talks to experts about the use of combat aircraft in Ukraine will find that a few fundamental aspects are forgotten in the discussion. About the time factor. In other words: how quickly would Ukrainian pilots be able to master a machine, for example an F-16? Optimists in the US assume that pilot training would take half a year. A Bundeswehr officer, who did not want to be named, told stern: "The entire training for such aircraft takes four or five years. From this point of view, fighter jets are only worthwhile if you assume that the Ukraine war will last for years ."
But even with capable pilots alone, it is not enough. Around a dozen women and men are needed for each fighter jet to make and keep the aircraft operational. They would also need to be trained accordingly. Or be sent to Ukraine by the donor states – which would, however, be tantamount to participating in the war. "Then we would be exactly in the situation that we have to avoid," said the officer.
The military expert Carlo Masala from the Bundeswehr University in Munich believes that fighter jets would help Ukraine in principle, but that other things are currently more important - such as short-range missiles and the replenishment of ammunition and material. Possibly such considerations as well as the general effort are a reason why many states relatively quickly "did not want to rule out" the delivery of fighter jets - because they suspect that the gesture of solidarity will remain nothing more than an offer due to the complex implementation.
Regardless of whether Germany, the USA or France sends machines to Ukraine or not, the mere willingness to do so sends a clear signal to Russia. If Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin seems willing to pay any price for his war, then large parts of the world are willing to go beyond the limits of pain when it comes to aiding the country under attack.
Sources: DPA, AFP, "Die Welt", t-online