A Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base in late January 2023 ended inconclusively, with many countries stopping short of promising to deliver new tanks to Ukraine.
However, even after the meeting the discussions continued and, one after another, countries of the “tank coalition” set their sights on providing Ukraine with heavy armor.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the meeting went down in history as the “Ramstein of tanks”.
“And we also count that your next gatherings will go down in history as Ramstein of F-16 and long-range missiles,” he added.
Both before and since his remark, at least several countries said they were open to providing Ukraine with new fighter jets, including but not limited to the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
AeroTime has broken down each instance where officials, politicians and companies have put their weight behind such deliveries, starting with Ukraine’s closest neighbors.
Poland has been one of Ukraine’s closest allies since the first days of the war, providing an immense amount of material support, hence rumors that this could include fighter jets.
Poland operates significant numbers of both modernized Soviet-era MiG-29s and relatively modern F-16C/D. Talks about supplying Ukraine with both models have taken place.
March and April 2022 saw plans for the US to provide Poland with new F-16s in exchange for Polish Air Force MiGs being given to Ukraine. However, the scheme did not work out.
At the same time Ukrainian officials hinted that Polish jets could be heading to Ukraine after all, only for Poland to continuously deny the claims.
“We are supporting Ukrainians with humanitarian aid. However, we are not going to send any jets to Ukrainian airspace,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said in late February 2022.
In January 2023, several reports surfaced alleging that while Duda was denying that Poland intends to send its jets into Ukrainian air space, Polish MiGs were already reaching Ukraine in a disassembled state.
At the same time, some Polish politicians became increasingly vocal about supplying more modern equipment. In late January 2023, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that his country will act “in full coordination with the allies” regarding sending F-16s to Ukraine, hinting that such transfers are on the table.
His remarks were followed by Andrii Yermak, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, who said that his country had been given “positive signals” from Poland regarding sending F-16s to Ukraine.
Slovakia is another country with a number of MiG-29s in service. Several Slovakian politicians stated that the country will provide Ukraine with the jets, including unconfirmed statements that such transfers may have already started.
Slovakia ordered a fleet of F-16 jets in 2018, hoping to replace its aging MiGs. However, the delivery of the new jets was delayed. In October 2022, a deal was reached for Polish and Czech air forces to protect Slovakian air space before the arrival of new F-16s, filling the void created by the potential departure of the country’s MiGs to Ukraine.
In December 2022, the Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs Rastislav Kacher said that Slovakian MiGs will reach Ukraine “soon”. No further details about the transfer have been communicated since.
Reports that an unnamed Eastern European country provided Ukraine with Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft first surfaced in May 2022. Ukraine denied the claims, stating that only parts for such aircraft had been delivered.
Several reports added that it was Bulgaria that had sent its fleet of modernized Su-25s to Ukraine. However, Bulgaria refuted the reports, stating that all its Su-25s never departed their home bases.
Since then, several Bulgarian politicians have commented that the country’s MiG-29s could also be heading to Ukraine, although their statements have not been officially confirmed.
Bulgaria’s stance remains inconclusive.
In 2019 the Royal Netherlands Air Force started receiving Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters, replacing its old F-16s when the fifth-generation jets came in.
Some of the F-16s were sold to commercial operators, although the majority remained in the Netherlands.
In January 2023, shortly before the Ramstein meeting, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra said the country has an “open mind” regarding delivering its old F-16s to Ukraine.
Other Dutch politicians later commented that while such an arrangement has not yet been seriously discussed, it is a possibility if other countries also agree to send their aircraft to Ukraine.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen, a Swedish-made fourth-generation fighter jet, has often been named as one of candidates for delivery to Ukraine along with the F-16.
The Swedish Air Force is the largest operator of the type. It is also in the process of introducing the Gripen E/F, a newer variant of the aircraft which could replace some of the older Gripen Cs and Ds.
While there were no official statements regarding the provision of Swedish Gripens to Ukraine, at least several Swedish politicians have been vocal about their expectations that the country should do so.
In early January 2023, France announced a plan to retire its Dassault Mirage 2000 jets in favor of newer Rafales. The announcement coincided with predictions that some variant of the Mirage 2000 could be given to Ukraine.
Thomas Gassilloud, the chairman of France’s National Assembly of National Defense and Armed Forces Committee, said that the country must leave “all the doors open” and that the possibility of French aircraft being delivered to Ukraine must be discussed.
In an interview with The Telegraph Gassilloud added that “things are moving fast” regarding the provision of fighter jets to Ukraine, stopping short of elaborating on French plans to supply the aircraft.
It must be noted that in 2021, before the invasion, Ukraine also considered purchasing the Dassault Rafale for its air force as a replacement for the MiG-29 and the Su-27.
While no official statements have been made in this regard, France’s Gassilloud mentioned that Denmark could also be sending its F-16s to Ukraine.
Like the Dutch Air Force, the Royal Danish Air Force is also in the process of replacing its F-16s with F-35s.
The idea that old jets could be given to Ukraine has been floating in the Danish press, although no statements have been made by the country’s politicians.
Following the ostensible failure to transfer Polish MiGs in exchange for F-16s, numerous US officials and senators have voiced their support to giving US-made jets directly to Ukraine.
The particular type of jet to be transferred has not been voiced, although several US officials commented that the A-10 ground attack aircraft could be the first to be transferred – only for Ukraine to reject the idea.
However, Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-16, said that it supports the idea for the third party to send the aircraft to Ukraine. In the US government, discussions regarding greenlighting the transfer of other countries’ F-16s to Ukraine have also been ongoing, with some officials anonymously commenting to the press that the latest variants of the jet could also be sent from US stocks.
However, on January 31, 2023, when US President Joe Biden was asked if the US would be sending F-16s to Ukraine, he responded “no”.