Kiev severely lacks airpower and yet reportedly refused to accept two squadrons of Australia’s retired F/A-18 Hornets
A senior Ukrainian Air Force official had brushed off Australian fighter-bombers as rubbish Canberra wanted to get rid of, Australian Financial Review (AFR) revealed on Tuesday. When Kiev changed its mind and asked for the planes months later, the aircraft were already scrapped.
The idea of giving over 41 of the Royal Australian Air Force’s retired F/A-18 Hornet jets was first floated last March. Two months later at the G7 summit in Japan, US President Joe Biden gave the green light to his Western allies to send US-manufactured fourth-generation jets to Ukraine.
Yet, when Kiev was encouraged to lodge a formal request for the fighter-bombers, an unnamed Ukrainian Air Force official called them scrap that Australia was eager to offload, AFR wrote, quoting a defense contractor who was present during the talks.
“He called them ‘flying trash’,” the defense contractor said. “That basically killed the F/A-18 deal. Had he not done it they would have been flying over Ukraine now.”
By that time, Kiev had already opened talks with several of its Western sponsors about receiving F-16 Fighting Falcons. The states of Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have offered to donate some of theirs towards Ukraine’s war effort, while other countries offered training for Ukrainian pilots.
F/A-18 fighter-bombers are also fourth-generation combat aircraft, but heavier, two-engine jets manufactured by a different company. Ukrainian officials allegedly feared that maintenance, ammunition and training infrastructure would have been strained by the different needs of the two models, especially given that Ukrainian pilots mostly work with Soviet-model aircraft.
Talks once again touched on the F/A-18 Hornets in December, after the flop of Kiev’s counteroffensive effort. However, an Australian Defense Department spokesman told AFR the jets were already in the final stages of being scrapped.
Similarly, Ukraine passed up the chance to obtain Australian MRH-90 Taipan helicopters, which were already being disassembled by the time Kiev thought to ask for them.
“It’s a dumpster fire at the moment,” the defense contractor described the event. “Ukraine didn’t get its request letter in on time for the Taipans. They’re not good at paperwork.”
Kiev’s Western sponsors have promised that deliveries of F-16 jets will begin in 2024, with Denmark and the Netherlands pledging up to 61 of the fighter planes. Sweden has promised to donate some of its Gripen aircraft once the country is accepted into NATO.
Moscow, which has condemned outside military aid to Ukraine numerous times, warned that the Western-supplied fighter planes will be destroyed like other foreign-supplied armaments without turning the tide of battle.