The United States Air Force retires hundreds of warplanes from service each year, aircraft that could make a crucial difference to Ukraine as it battles Russian invaders, according to defense contractor Erik Prince.
Last year he circulated a plan that would have sent dozens of retired F-16 fighters and refuelling tankers to bolster Ukraine’s defense forces and make Russia think twice about attacking.
The plan was modeled on the sort of lend-lease program used by the US to send arms to Britain in the World War Two, before the US entered the conflict, with the aid repaid in kind.
On Friday, Prince told DailyMail.com the idea had been ‘summarily’ rejected.
‘Airpower would have prevented this aggression to start with,’ said the Blackwater founder.
‘It can still prevent wholesale destruction of Ukraine’s cities and their stalwart civilian defenders.’
The issue has returned to the fore this week.
The main thrust of Russia’s invading force – a 40-mile column of armor and trucks – appears to be stalled en route to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, triggering calls in the US to send help to destroy it.
And Ukrainian President Volodomry Zelensky on Thursday repeated his plea for a NATO no-fly zone to protect his country from Russian air power – only for it to be formally rejected a day later.
Blackwater founder Erik Prince said his plan to send retired US US Air Force aircraft to Ukraine was rejected ‘summarily’ by the White House but could help Kyiv survive
This year, the US Air Force is planning to retire 47 of its F-16s. Why not send them to Ukraine, says Prince, where they could be flown by retired US pilots?
This year, the US Air Force is also planning to retire 14 McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender refueling tankers, like the one seen here at Travis Air Force Base, California
The Biden administration has already committed $1 billion in military aid to the country but officials have repeatedly said they will not allow US forces to come into direct conflict with Russian forces.
Prince’s plan would have skirted that problem.
Budget documents published last year, show the USAF plans to retire 47 aging F-16s this year and 14 McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender refuelling tankers.
The planes formed the basis of a plan to bolster Ukraine under the sort of lend-lease program used to arm Britain against the Nazis – allowing the UK to pay for arms and equipment with agreements to build US bases after the war, or simply writing off the debt.
Another World War Two-era scheme would have provided the necessary manpower. Retired pilots would fly the planes, allowing Washington to say that it had not sent US personnel into action against Russia.
The idea was rather like the Flying Tigers volunteer air corps that helped defend China against Japan in 1941 and 1942 or the Eagle Squadrons of the Royal Air Force, which included flyers on leaves of absence from their usual postings.
Prince laid out elements of the plan in an interview with Fox News last month
‘Trust me, if 140 ex-American combat aircraft showed up by well-flown aggressive carnivore pilots, believe me, Putin would not have invaded because that is the kind of deterrence he was not expecting, because he needs air superiority,’ he said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last weekend, the European Union announced it was sending fighter jets to Ukraine to be flown by Ukrainian pilots – only for member states to say there was no such deal.
In the meantime, Zelensky has continued his appeals for a NATO no-fly zone.
A destroyed Russian tank is seen on the road near Brovary, to the east of Kyiv, after being destroyed on Friday morning
People remove personal belongings from a burning house after being shelled in the city of Irpin, near Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky repeated his plea for a NATO no-fly zone over his country during a Thursday press conference when he said help had come to late
‘We want a no-fly zone because our people are being killed. From Belarus, from Russia — these missiles, these Iskander missiles and bomber planes, are coming,’ he said during a televised press conference on Thursday.
‘I asked President Biden, and Scholz and Macron…and I said, if you can’t provide a no-fly zone right now, then tell us when?’
The White House has repeatedly said it will not back such a move.
And on Friday, NATO rejected the proposal.
‘We have a responsibility as NATO allies to prevent this war from escalating beyond Ukraine because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and would cause even more human suffering,’ Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting in Brussels.
The decision was welcomed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who echoed the same language.
‘We have a responsibility to ensure the war does not spill over beyond Ukraine … A no-fly zone could lead to a full-fledged war in Europe,’ he told reporters.
original source: Biden administration rejected Erik Prince plan to send old US fighter jets to Ukraine last year