The One Who Controls The Skies, Controls The War

As you may know, air superiority is a major strategic force to reckon with—an inherently critical factor in modern warfare that many powerful nations seek to achieve and maintain. It is often said that “the one who controls the skies controls the war,” as it can provide numerous offensive and defensive military advantages. This is why Russia targeted Ukrainian military bases, specifically airfields, to deprive the latter of using its air capabilities in the early days of the invasion.

After suffering substantial losses to its fleet, the Ukrainian Air Force found itself severely hindered in its offensive capabilities. Most of its remaining aircraft were either grounded or vulnerable to being shot down, significantly limiting their ability to engage in offensive operations. Moreover, without air superiority, Ukraine’s ground forces have also been vulnerable to Russian airstrikes, making it difficult for Kyiv to advance on Moscow’s claimed territories and position, resulting in heavy casualties among Ukrainian troops and civilians.

Moreover, to try and resolve this, many Western leaders have been making an effort in trying to get Ukraine the fighter aircraft it needs, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who recently pledged to spearhead the formation of an “international coalition” to provide fighter jets and training to Ukraine.

An Open Mind

Most NATO members likewise have kept an open mind regarding the possibility of sending the needed aircraft. But, at the end of the day, this decision on whether to allow the delivery of F-16s to Ukraine will still need to be approved and supported by the White House. And as early as January, the Biden administration has been firm on not doing so, citing military escalation concerns with Russia—not to mention the price tag of each aircraft and the extensive training the Ukrainian pilots need before they can effectively use the complex F-16s.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has since requested the United States for F-16 fighter jets that he said would not only help them “close the sky over Ukraine and save thousands of lives” but also send a clear message to Russia that “the West will not allow it to continue its aggression.”