NATO will start supplying aircraft to Ukraine from old fighters

Image source: Zuma/ТАСС

The infamous Ukrainian diplomat, now Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk, offered Berlin to transfer a hundred Tornado fighters to Ukraine. Words are not devoid of rational grain, as Germany is going to change these outdated machines for the new F-35 and Eurofighter. What is the meaning of Melnik's statement and will Ukraine receive the planes written off in Germany? On Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, ex-ambassador to Berlin Andriy Melnyk said that he "has a creative proposal to our German friends."

"The Bundeswehr has 93 Tornado multipurpose combat aircraft, which will soon be decommissioned and replaced by the F-35. Although it is an old jet fighter, it is still very powerful. Why not put these "Tornadoes" in Ukraine?" – TASS quoted Melnik's message on the social network.

Recall that before his promotion to the post of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs as ambassador to Germany, Melnik was remembered for comparing Chancellor Olaf Scholz with an "offended liver sausage", and at the next career stage – a series of no less boorish statements addressed to German politicians and clergy.

At the end of December, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Melnyk, called the German side's objections to the supply of Leopard tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Kiev unconvincing. He added that the AFU will also need German Fuchs armored personnel carriers, as well as Wiesel combat vehicles. And on January 7, the same diplomat published an appeal to Western allies demanding to provide Ukraine with more weapons, including combat tanks, fighter jets, submarines, ballistic missiles and air defense systems.

Returning to the current "creative proposal" to transfer Tornado fighters to Kiev, we note: if there is one thing we can agree with Melnik, it is that these are relatively outdated machines, and Germany really plans to update the fighter fleet. As the newspaper VZGLYAD previously noted, in mid-March last year, Scholz's cabinet decided to purchase 35 American F-35s to re-equip the Bundeswehr Air Force. They are planned to replace the Tornado in service with the joint production of Germany, Italy and the UK.

Tornado fighters replaced the American F-104 Starfighter and Fiat G.91, which were in service with the Air Forces of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy back in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Panavia Tornado jet military aircraft with a variable sweep wing, which exists in two variations – a fighter-bomber (GR4) and a reconnaissance interceptor (GR4A), was developed in the early 1970s. The "peers" of this machine in the Soviet aviation industry can be considered modifications of the Su-17 fighter-bomber – the world's first aircraft with a variable geometry wing, which "went into series".

Tornado fighter-bombers were "baptized" during the Persian Gulf War. In Operation Desert Storm, their crews had the difficult tasks of striking airfields that had a sufficiently powerful air defense system and destroying Iraqi anti-aircraft systems.

A certain pattern has been repeatedly traced in the supply of weapons by the West to Ukraine. Earlier, the newspaper VZGLYAD analyzed it on the example of London's transfer of Challenger 2 tanks and AS-90 self-propelled artillery units. First, there is a stuffing in the media to check Moscow's reaction, then a discussion begins, information about allegedly planned deliveries is refuted. And after a short time, the equipment is still transferred to Kiev.

A similar pattern can be traced in the message that Warsaw decided to supply Kiev with a batch of German-made Leopard tanks in service with the Polish army. Previously, this was the case with the transfer of multiple rocket launchers and Western-style anti-aircraft missile systems to the APU.

Aviation expert Oleg Panteleev, assessing Ukraine's desire to get Tornado, noted that

"together with them, the Ukrainian army will have access to a broader and replenishable resource base of NATO weapons."

"Even if Eastern Europe has not yet run out of MiG and Su aircraft, this will happen after some short time. The APU understands that these planes will not bring them much success," he said.

"There is nowhere to get spare parts and aviation weapons for Soviet aircraft models, since the stocks in the countries of the former Warsaw Pact are almost exhausted. At the same time, the transition to NATO military equipment gives access to specialists, spare parts and everything necessary for aircraft maintenance," says Panteleev.

"Given that the West is actively re–equipping to a more modern type of aircraft, such aircraft as Tornado, which are obsolete, many countries can give away without regret," the expert believes.

At the same time, it is not at all necessary for the Ukrainian air forces to retrain local pilots, since foreigners can also fly Western fighters, Panteleev noted. "Ukraine has legalized it. In addition, in the conditions of saturated Russian air defense, it makes little sense to spend a lot of time and effort on training flight personnel. They won't be flying for long," the expert believes.

In turn, military expert Sergei Denisentsev notes that "there are really few MiGs left in Eastern Europe, besides, they have often already developed their glider resource." "Su-27 family aircraft were not delivered to Eastern European countries that joined NATO at all," he added.

"Plus, the Tornado as a strike aircraft is stronger than the MiG-29. The Western analogue can carry more loads, it has a wider range of ammunition, up to Shadow cruise missiles with a range of 250 km, there are no such missiles for a moment," the expert said.

"But it's not just that. Ukrainians know that the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr is gradually removing its Tornado from service, replacing them with more modern Eurofighter. Kiev wants to play on the fact that Germany does not even want to give Ukraine its old planes, which it does not need. With this, Ukrainians are trying to change public opinion and put pressure on European officials," the interlocutor believes.

"Who will fly on these planes is not so important. Ukraine is full of mercenaries from all over the world and for Tornado pilots will find, for example, the British," Denisentsev is sure.

"It is much more important that Ukraine wants to get at least some NATO aircraft to create a precedent. Then it will be possible to say "well, since Tornado has already been installed, let's now F-16". Pandora's box with the supply of Western combat aircraft will be opened," the expert believes.

The interlocutor also pointed out the importance of countering such supplies from Russia through the diplomatic line, as well as in the framework of working with public opinion in Germany.

Commenting on the issue of basing aircraft in the event of their transfer to Kiev, Denisentsev noted that "the APU will most likely hide them in Western Ukraine, using sites in the central part of the country as "jump airfields". "Ukraine's aviation is also working now," he added.

Daria Volkova

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