Hurricane In Ukraine! How Did Kyiv Become A ‘Graveyard’ For British Fighter Aircraft

In May this year, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak supported Ukraine’s demand to obtain a Western fighter jet from the NATO alliance. The UK has since been at the forefront of an international jet coalition that would train Ukrainian pilots and ultimately ship F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv.

UK’s Minister of State for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, recently announced that 20 Ukrainian pilots will start basic training in the UK in August. After completing this initial round of training, Ukrainian pilots will be allowed to pursue more specialized training to fly F-16 fighter jets.

When announcing the decision to train Ukrainian pilots in May this year, the British Prime Minister stated that while his country was ready to train Ukrainian fighter pilots, there was no consideration of providing a fighter jet from the Royal Air Force (RAF) inventory.

The British government, however, fell short of pledging its own Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 combat jets as speculated and instead chose to rally behind the US-made F-16 that Ukraine had run a concerted campaign for.

The UK has not shied away from supplying the Ukrainian military to bolster Kyiv’s capability against Moscow’s military and aid its counteroffensive. It became the first country in all of NATO that shipped the long-range Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine, which are now wreaking havoc on high-value targets in Russia.

Eurofighter Typhoons of the German Air Force 30-23
File Image: Eurofighter Typhoons

Despite several pleas made by the Ukrainian leadership, one thing is certain: British fighter jets are not going to Ukraine. However, in a recent incident, the Ukrainian authorities discovered the wreckage of eight British-origin fighter jets in the country.

However, the devil is in the details. How did the British-origin aircraft get to Ukraine in the first place when the country is so reluctant to send them now when the Ukrainian Air Force needs them the most?

Hurricanes For Soviet Union

The Ukrainian officials excavated the wreckage of eight British Hurricane fighter planes from the Second World War (WW2) somewhere in a forest south of Kyiv.

Besides the aircraft, there was also an unexploded bomb discovered by the authorities, known from the same time. Ukraine was earlier part of the Soviet Union.

According to Ukrainian officials, the aircraft was transferred from the UK to the former Soviet Union to fight the marching Nazi Germany as far back as 1941.

Oleks Shtan, a former airline pilot leading the excavation, told the BBC: “It is very rare to find this aircraft in Ukraine. It’s very important for our aviation history because no lend-lease aircraft have been found here before.”

Oleks Shtan told BBC that this was the first time that such a large number of Hurricane fighter jets were excavated in Ukraine. Such wreckage has been excavated by Ukrainian authorities on previous occasions as well.

The development comes a few days after EurAsian Times published a detailed article on the military aid provided to Ukraine by one of the allies of WW2, the United States before the invasion by Nazi Germany even took place.

Although the Soviet Union and Germany signed a non-aggression pact in August 1939, the agreement was broken when Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941. Then, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Congress that the country should offer military assistance to states that are “vital to the defense of the United States.”

Washington passed the Lend-Lease Act, which allowed it to send military supplies to the Soviet Union, China, and Great Britain. As previously reported by the EurAsian Times, a huge volume of military aid was sent to the Soviet Union.

As per reports, the UK also joined hands with the US to transfer equipment to the Red Army, explaining the discovery of Hurricanes. Of course, the United States paid for transferring Hurricane fighter jets from the Royal Air Force to the Soviet Air Force.

How Hurricanes Repelled The Nazi Germany Assault

To aid the Soviet war effort, the USSR received a package of roughly 3,000 fighter planes between 1941 and 1944, including the Hurricanes, which downed more than half of all German aircraft during the Battle of Britain.

“The Hurricane was a strong, easy to fly machine,” Shtan says. “It was stable as a gun platform and suitable for inexperienced pilots. A reliable aircraft.”

Beginning in late 1941, the Soviet Union started to receive Hurricane Mk II aircraft, among the first generation of Lend-Lease fighters offered, along with the P-39 Airacobra and P-40 Tomahawk/Kittyhawk. About 2,776 Hurricane Mk II aircraft were given to the Soviets.

File Image: Hurricane

Hurricane Mk. IIC single seat was a low-wing monoplane ground attack fighter that had an enclosed cockpit, steel tube fuselage with aircraft spruce forms and fabric, stressed skin aluminum wings, and grey-green camouflage top surface paint scheme with dove grey underside, among a host of other notable features that made it a lethal aircraft back in time.

The Hurricane went on to have a notable career in Soviet hands. In fact, at one point in 1942, it was the most common Western-supplied fighter in Soviet service, and it was run from land bases by the air force and the naval air arm.

However, many of the top Soviet aces preferred to fly other, more advanced types since the Hurricane was outperformed by the Messerschmidt Bf 109F/G fighter that the Luftwaffe frequently deployed.

The Hurricane tends to be underappreciated in historical accounts because of the West’s continuous flow of new and better fighters and the emergence of a new generation of Soviet-made aircraft, even though it made a significant contribution. Despite fighting valiantly against the formidable Luftwaffe Air Force, some Hurricane aircraft were shot down by the enemy over Soviet skies.

The discovery of the wreckage indicates that the most valuable parts of the rusting wreck, such as the radios and machine guns, had been removed before it was taken to the forest.

Historians assert that some of these aircraft may have been disassembled and buried after the war to prevent the Soviet Union from having to repay the US since, by the lend-lease agreement, Moscow was obligated to pay for any supplied military equipment that was still in working order.

It has now been decided that the Hurricanes will be assembled again and displayed at Ukraine’s National Aviation Museum. “The Hurricanes are a symbol of British assistance during the years of the second world war, just as we are very appreciative of British assistance nowadays,” said Valerii Romanenko, the head of research at the museum.