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Wallace: UK can enable other countries to send Ukraine fighter jets, but its own role is 'limited'
The U.K. can assist nations that wish to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, but its own role is "limited," U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on May 17, Sky News reported.
"What we can obviously contribute is training and support within limits because we don't have F-16 pilots," Wallace said at a joint press conference with his German counterpart Boris Pistorius.
A day before, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte agreed to build an "international coalition" to help procure F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine. Earlier, the U.K. promised to train Ukrainian pilots on fighter aircraft this summer, and France also "opened the door" for such training.
Meanwhile, Pistorius told reporters, as cited by Sky News, that Germany "cannot play an active role in such an alliance because we have neither the training capacities, the competencies or the planes."
Ukraine has been requesting fighters for months to defend its skies and maximize the effectiveness of its combined arms forces during a future counteroffensive. Of all the available models, Ukraine has shown the most interest in the U.S.-built F-16, in service since the 1970s and operated by over 20 nations.
At the May 17 news conference, Wallace said that "it's up to the U.S. to decide if they want to release this (F-16's) technology," calling claims about "massive difference" between U.S.-made F-16 jets and Soviet-era MiGs "misleading."
Ukraine's military has said that the country needs more advanced aircraft than MiG-29 fighter jets provided by Poland and Slovakia in order to defeat Russia. However, Washington has recently ruled out sending F-16 jets to Ukraine for now.
Critics argue that allies' reluctance to supply F-16, Typhoon, and Dassault fighter jets and long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine will prevent Kyiv from launching a counteroffensive and liberating the rest of Ukrainian territory.