Ukraine’s request for extra airpower has posed a “complicated question,” Australia’s defense minister declared on July 13, 2023.
A month prior, on June 13, 2023, Ukraine asked Australia about the condition of dozens of retired F-18 jets, which could provide a significant boost to Kyiv’s aviation strength.
Australia announced the ramped-up plan to support Ukraine on July 10, 2023, a day before the NATO summit, promising to send the E-7A Wedgetail surveillance aircraft to ensure the flow of military and humanitarian assistance to the war-torn country.
A whole new package of weapons for Ukraine was expected to be approved by Australia’s cabinet ahead of the summit, yet there was still no confirmation about the jets.
“It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said, expressing his frustration on Twitter during the summit. “And for Russia, this means the motivation to continue its terror. Uncertainty is a weakness. And I will openly discuss this at the summit.”
The Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of almost 70 F-18 jets was replaced with the more advanced F-35s between 2019 and 2021.
While conversations about providing aircraft are “ongoing”, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles has stated they are much more difficult than other forms of military support.
“What is at the heart of this is making sure that what we actually ultimately announce and what we give and what we do needs to be practical and needs to make a difference for Ukraine in a timely way,” Marles commented in an interview with national broadcaster ABC on July 13, 2023.
“I really believe that what we have announced up until now is doing that and you can see that in the gratitude that comes from Ukraine in respect of those announcements,” he added.
However, the same day, following Russia’s continued overnight attacks on Kyiv, Yuriy Ignat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that the recently supplied Western weapon systems were insufficient to protect the whole country.
“We do not have means to destroy ballistic missiles,” Ignat told Ukrainian national television.