China/Taiwan Crisis Shows We Need To Arm our Allies
By Richard Newton and Dan Rice
Provide Ukraine Excess US Air Force F-15s and F-16s...Now
Nuclear armed aggressor nations, such as China and Russia, cannot be allowed to invade neighboring sovereign democracies using conventional forces unchecked. The best way to deter these aggressor nations, both Russia and China, is to arm the democracies with conventional forces capable of defending themselves or making the cost of invasion too costly for the aggressor nations in total terms.
We are now arming Ukraine with more and more defensive weapons for its army to defeat Russia: Javelin anti- tank, Stinger anti-aircraft, Switchblade suicide drones, M777 155mm Howitzers with Excalibur precision guided weapons, as well as offensive weapons such as Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) that can strike deep into the occupied territories. We are arming Ukrainian naval forces with Harpoon anti-ship missiles, as well as 18 Mark VI patrol boats to protect their coastline from the Russian navy. As we look to the future Ukraine needs an Air Force, and it needs one now.
Ukraine is desperately requesting excess US Air Force F-15 and F-16 combat aircraft to defend its sovereign borders and provide close air support for its outnumbered soldiers against the unrelenting Russian invading army.
Providing US combat aircraft has strategic implications whereby Putin will certainly threaten escalation. However, the risk of escalation is ever-present, regardless if US provides essential combat airpower. The risk is even far greater to US national security interests (and the free world) if Ukraine continues to slug it out with a ground war of attrition and in turn possibly lose to Putin/Russia when US airpower could have most effectively turned the tide.
Until a Presidential decision is made to provide US Air Force F-15s/F-16s there are measures the US and NATO can do now in parallel while that approval process is ongoing. The recent Presidential approval for two other American made weapons systems to Ukraine provide compelling lessons learned. Specifically, M777 Howitzers and M142 HIMARS; precision guided lethal field artillery systems now being employed by Ukraine, have had an immediate impact against Russian enemy forces.
Soon after the Russian invasion five months ago, Ukraine began to burn through its Russian made ammunition. Artillery tubes are useless without ammo. So, Ukraine appealed to other former Soviet bloc nations for donations of excess Russian standard ammo. They received a large portion of Europe’s 122mm and 152mm artillery rounds but have since burned through that inventory. Now those 122mm and 152mm artillery tubes are neutralized with little or no ammo available.
Similarity, Ukraine's fighter aircraft are mostly Russian made such as SU-23 and SU-25 fighter/bomber aircraft. Many have been destroyed during the invasion, but Ukraine still employs a portion of these airpower assets. When these combat aircraft are further attrited Ukraine will be unable to acquire additional Russian made aircraft, hence the need for US made combat aircraft to replace Ukraine's depleting Russian-made fighter aircraft inventory.
Ideally, providing Ukraine with NATO standardized equipment over the long term would eliminate Ukraine's dependence on Russian made weapons and ammunition all together. Standardization allows NATO forces to operate, together with partners such as Ukraine, and field a more combined deterrent fighting force against future Russian incursions against NATO, friends, and allies.
The lessons previously mentioned from the employment of US made M777 and M142 systems with the Ukrainian Army are most useful to consider when debating whether to provide US fighter aircraft. Ukrainian fiend artillery soldiers are experts in operating Russian field artillery cannons; Ukrainian pilots already are combat tested and ready to be trained to employ US F-15s/F-16s.
Ukrainian success to date countering the largest land invasion since World War II has surprised the world. Their success thus far is due to superior political and military leadership, the extraordinary resolve of the Ukrainian people, the exceptional performance by the Ukrainian military, and the addition of US/NATO lethal precision weaponry such as Stingers, Javelins, NLAWs, among others.
The conflict quickly transitioned in April/May 2022 to a war in the east and south, much involving an artillery duel whereby the Russians had a massive firepower advantage of 10:1 up to 20:1. NATO stepped up to the plate and provided much needed precision artillery weaponry such as the afore mentioned M777 155 mm towed Howitzers and M142 HIMARS rocket launchers and ammo.
No crews were trained on MLRS until the Presidential authorization to ship HIMARS to Ukraine was approved. The several weeks it took to provide, train, and eventually employ these systems on the battlefield cost the lives of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and innocent civilians. The Russians relentlessly destroyed cities, farms, and other targets while Ukrainian forces conducted delaying actions until these precision ground weapons arrived to turn the tide in favor of Ukraine.
Now the debate to send excess US Air Force F-15s and F-16s is upon us. While the Ukrainian Air Force has been effective against the Russians to date, accumulated losses are mounting. Adding US capabilities such as F-15s/F-16s (among other combat airpower weapons systems) could be a game changer. Providing US airpower (i.e., equipment, training, weapons, maintenance, and parts) to Ukraine could tip the balance in Ukraine's favor...and In turn have a lasting positive impact on US national security interests for years. Especially now as Ukraine is facing an unrelenting and open ended ground war of attrition that they cannot sustain indefinitely, hence the need for additional US combat airpower.
The risk is far greater to US national security interests (and the free world) if Ukraine is forced to slug it out with a ground war of attrition and eventually lose to Putin and his merciless Army. The implications for the United States will be felt for years, not to mention the blood on our collective hands, whereby the employment of US airpower capabilities by Ukraine could have effectively turned the tide and enabled Ukraine to win this desperate fight for its own sovereignty and secure a crucial victory for the US, NATO, and the free world.
History is on our side. Let us not be timid; the time to act is now.