Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has pleaded with the UK and other Western allies to provide his air force with “wings for freedom”, by supplying fighter jets.
The request was made during his first trip to the UK since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago, on Wednesday (February 8).
In a speech to the legislature, Mr Zelensky thanked the UK for its unwavering assistance during the conflict.
However, he declared that more aircraft were required to defeat Vladimir Putin’s forces as he gave Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle the helmet of a Ukrainian fighter ace.
He said: “I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words: combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom.”
He added: “In Britain, the King is an air force pilot, and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king.”
He also reminisced about his last trip to Parliament two years ago, in peacetime, “I thanked you for delicious English tea”, but now he would be “thanking all of you in advance for powerful English planes”.
How many fighter jets does the UK have?
The Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning are the two primary fighter jet types used by the Royal Air Force (RAF).
It has 30 F-35Bs, all but one of which are operational, and 130 Typhoons, of which 101 are operational. This indicates that there are 130 active fighter jets in the RAF.
Seven of the 48 F-35Bs that the UK ordered from the US last year have already arrived. A mishap caused the loss of one of the aircraft.
The UK will have 70 F-35Bs when the final 40 arrive, with plans to buy more.
Will the UK supply Ukraine with fighter jets?
According to Downing Street, Rishi Sunak has requested that Defense Secretary Ben Wallace look at which jets the UK might consider giving to Ukraine.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has tasked the Defence Secretary with investigating what jets we might be able to give but to be clear, this is a long-term solution, rather than a short-term capability, which is what Ukraine needs most now.”
On Wednesday (February 8), Mr Sunak pledged that UK forces will train Ukrainian fighter pilots and Marines.
The arguments for and against supplying Ukraine with fighter jets
Mr Zelenksy has previously stated that, the sooner Ukraine receives heavy, long-range weapons and modern planes, “the quicker this Russian aggression will end”.
Since the start of the war, Moscow has repeatedly warned the West against supplying weapons and has threatened to take action against any “provocations”.
When asked by reporters in Moscow about the rising controversy about sending warplanes to Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded that Russia saw it as evidence of the UK, France, and Germany’s growing involvement in the conflict.
The fact that a decision on warplanes will be made collectively has already been emphasised by a number of EU politicians.
Some people are anxious to keep the discussion out of the public eye, while others worry about an escalation and feeding Russian narratives.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that many sensitive issues had to be discussed before a decision could be made on supplying fighter jets. “The pros and cons – you have to make absolutely sure that you are not getting into an Article Five direct confrontation between Nato and Russia.”
While Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz agreed only recently to allow German Leopard tanks to be used in the conflict and has warned against getting involved in a “public bidding war” of weapons systems for Ukraine.
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