Ukraine says Poland sending ‘positive signals’ about providing F-16 fighter jets

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a description of the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets.

A top Ukrainian official on Monday said Poland is sending “positive signals” about sending F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv as the next big debate over Western security assistance for Ukraine heats up.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, wrote on Telegram that Poland is ready to “pass them on to us in coordination with NATO.”

“We have positive signals from Poland,” Yermak wrote of the F-16s.

Poland, which pressured Germany to send Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, has not issued a definitive statement of support on the fighter jets but has hinted at backing this next round of security assistance.

When asked about the possibility of fighter jets at a press conference on Monday, Polish Prime Minister Matusz Morawiecki said he would “take decisions in close coordination” with Western allies, according to local outlet TVN24.

“Just as it was a few months ago, when the delivery of MiG fighter jets to Ukraine was discussed, any other aircraft will be transferred [to Ukraine] in consultation with NATO countries,” Morawiecki said.

Securing modern fighting jets from Western allies is the next focus for Ukraine in the war against Russia after winning over Western tanks from the U.S. and Germany last week.

Both Ukraine and Russia operate aging fleets of Soviet fighter jets that are considered inferior to Western jets, and Kyiv is seeking modern warplanes to dominate the skies and save civilians from relentless Russian bombing attacks.

Although Ukraine has long asked for them, the U.S. has resisted sending the American-made F-15s and F-16s since the beginning of the war.

Last spring, the U.S. also refused to facilitate the transfer of Poland’s MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine over fears of an escalation with Russia.

NATO allies would have to first gain permission from the U.S., which manufacturers the F-15s and F-16s, if they want to send from their stocks. There are also other Western fighter jets Ukraine would like to get its hands on, including the Eurofighter Typhoon.

It’s unclear how Moscow would react to a supply of modern fighter jets for Ukraine.

After the Western tanks were announced for Ukraine last week, Russia said the heavy combat vehicles would “burn” and that NATO was becoming more directly involved in the war, but some experts have assessed that fighter jets would not be seen as more escalatory than the tanks.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was criticized for delaying the decision to send over Leopard tanks to Ukraine, has said fighter jets are a non-starter.

“I can only advise against entering into a constant competition to outbid each other when it comes to weapons systems,” Scholz said in an interview with a German news outlet.

Over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his opposition to dragging out any further debates on security assistance, pushing to “speed up the supply” of weapons to his embattled nation.

“Russia hopes to drag out the war, to exhaust our forces,” Zelensky said in an address. “The speed of supply has been and will be one of the key factors in this war.”

–Updated on Jan. 31 at 10:06 a.m.

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