In a recent interview with Fox News, a Ukrainian pilot described the direct aerial confrontation with the Russian fighter jets as a ‘suicide mission,’ adding, “I wouldn’t even find him [Russian aircraft] on the radar screen by the time he’s already launched a missile.”
The pilot was identified by his call sign, “Juice.” In June, the report said that two fighter pilots from the Ukrainian air force traveled to Washington, DC, to urge Congress to provide them with the hardware they direly require, including fourth-generation warplanes.
Another pilot asked to be identified by his call sign, “Moonfish.” On June 23, the pilots met with lawmakers behind closed doors to discuss what was required in the short and long term.
“They’re sending their attack jets and helicopters at low altitudes through the front lines to attack our war-fighters in the trenches,” Juice explained. “We need to react. We need to intercept them. We need to save the lives of our citizens and ground troops.”
Juice, whose squadron made headlines in the early days of the war for taking to the skies to defend Kyiv, stated that air defense is Ukraine’s top priority.
The pilots stated that to counter and detect the barrage of Russian missile fire, Ukrainian fighters on the ground and in the air need more sophisticated surveillance and response systems.
Juice claimed that while the US has provided Ukraine with various heavy artillery, including Howitzer, Javelin, and Stinger missiles, to aid resistance fighters in repelling Russian advances, it is still insufficient to fight Moscow.
“Air defense is pretty immediate, but it depends on a mutual level of air defense,” the pilot told Fox News. “We already are receiving Stinger missiles. It’s the lowest level of air defense. It’s very effective for its role, but we need some simple next-level air defense.”
Ukraine Wants F-15 & F-16 Fighter Jets
In the last few months, Ukrainian military leaders have been requesting the United States and other NATO countries to send them modern warplanes like F-16s or F-15s. However, the Biden administration declined to send warplanes to Ukraine to avoid escalating tensions with Russia.
Ukraine has scaled back its air operations to 20 to 30 sorties per day, in contrast to the early stages of the conflict. “Right now, we have many more pilots than jets,” said Moonfish.
They argue to acquire the new platforms to pull more Ukrainian pilots away from the flight lines for training on cutting-edge American fighter jets like the F-15 and F-16.
Both US jets are capable of performing the close air support mission. The pilots claimed that sending in cutting-edge American fighter aircraft could aid in neutralizing Russia’s air defenses, which are becoming more active.
Fighters on the front lines also assert that warplanes are required to confront Russia and end the expensive war effectively. Meanwhile, the United States continues to pour billions of dollars in defensive aid into Ukraine.
This “hesitancy doesn’t exist so much in Congress,” according to Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, who presided over the meeting with a group of about ten bipartisan lawmakers, including Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Roger Wicker.
“I believe they should have the weapons systems they believe they need to win,” he told Fox News. “And it’s not terribly useful for us to be second-guessing that.”
The senator noted that the Ukrainian pilots would need to undergo training for fourth-generation warplanes. However, the Ukrainian pilots think this could be done quickly over three to six months, as reported by the EurAsian Times.
The Ukrainian Air Force primarily relied on the Soviet-era MiG-29 warplanes, but these outdated planes lack the technological advances required to combat modern jets.
“If you are engaging with a Russian fighter, face-to-face fight, I wouldn’t even find him on the radar screen [by the time] he’s already launched a missile,” Juice explained. “It’s almost a suicide mission to intercept them.”
The Russian fighter jets are equipped with advanced “fire-and-forget” missiles. On the other hand, Ukrainian jets employ semi-active missiles that need ongoing radar guidance. As a result, the risk to fighter pilots increases significantly.
In contrast to Russian pilots, who can launch a missile and then retreat to safety, Ukrainian pilots must fly alongside the missile to guide it to its target, placing themselves in great danger.
Contemporary aerial warfare is a battle of numbers, distances, ranges, and kill ratios, and our kill ratio is not enough to be compelling, Juice added. Our ground-based air defense has proven capable and effective against them. That’s why they’ve suffered substantial losses from the beginning of this war.
But our ground defense cannot shield the entire nation, and it’s not as mobile as fighter jets. You need both,” Juice urged. There is a significantly less chance that the US will equip Ukraine with fighter aircraft, no matter how often the Ukrainians request them.