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Senate urges Pentagon to contemplate deploying warplanes to Ukraine, fighter pilot highlights ‘pressing want’


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A bipartisan group of senators this week urged the Pentagon to “consider” deploying war planes to Ukraine as it continues to grapple with Russia’s months-long deadly war. 

In a letter led by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, to Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, a bipartisan group of six senators urged the Department of Defense to “consider fourth-generation fighter aircraft and necessary flight training” to be included in upcoming military aid packages.

Speaking to Fox News Digital while on duty at 2 a.m. in Ukraine, one fighter pilot, who goes by the call sign “Juice,” championed the move and said the advanced aircraft was “critical” for fending off Russian forces. 

Ukrainian pilot "Juice"

Ukrainian pilot “Juice”
(Photo provided by Ukrainian pilot “Juice”)

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“Not just fourth-generation fighters,” he explained, “but actually U.S.-made fighter jets.”

Juice detailed how U.S.-made warplanes include “critical capabilities” that dated MiG-29s and Su-27s – which Ukrainian fighter pilots largely rely on – do not have. 

“U.S. jets are multifunctional platforms with advanced sensors and weapons – which could help us first of all to defend our cities, our infrastructure and our civilians from the missile strikes and bombers, to gain the air superiority above the front lines and secure the land forces.”

The pilot, whose squadron garnered international attention in the first weeks of the war as they took to the sky to defend Kyiv, said the next step would be using the modern aircraft for counter-offensive actions. 

Juice, along with fellow fighter pilot “Moonfish,” traveled from the front lines last month to Washington, D.C. to meet with Sullivan and other lawmakers and explained that without planes equipped with modern defenses, they were running “suicide missions” when facing off Russian sorties in the sky.

“They heard our urgent needs, promised to help, and now they’re keeping their word,” Juice told Fox News Digital in response to the letter.

The fighter pilot specifically acknowledged Sullivan and said he hopes the Pentagon can help them find a solution as they continue to repel Russian advances.

Ukrainian fighter pilots fly in segment led by "Juice."

Ukrainian fighter pilots fly in segment led by “Juice.”
(Photo by Yurii Kysil)

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The Biden administration has yet to throw its support behind sending warplanes to Ukraine, and officials on both sides of the aisle have argued it could escalate the war and may prove logistically challenging to properly maintain the aircraft and train the pilots.

However, U.S. and Ukrainian officials have told Fox News Digital that Ukrainian pilots are “more than capable” of being trained up on modern U.S. fourth-generation aircraft within a matter of months.

Speaking from the Aspen Security Forum Wednesday, Air Force Gen. Charles Brown, who also serves as the chief of staff of the military branch, echoed his support in training Ukrainian pilots and said the U.S. and its allies have a responsibility “to be prepared to train them in various capabilities and capacities.”

However, the four star general would not comment on the type of aircraft the U.S. or its allies would use in trainings or potentially provide to Ukraine. 

Juice also pushed back on the suggestion that Ukrainians could not properly maintain the advanced aircraft.

“There were a lot of concerns and incorrect information on the issue, but now Senators have the real picture,” he said. “It’s not a problem, but it’s a challenge.”

He said the Ukrainian air force needs to work in coordination with allied nations to ready the runways, expand trainings and logistically prepare by organizing the delivery of spare parts and ammunition

“We need to have started that yesterday to become combat ready,” he said expressing his sense of urgency.

Poland, which joined NATO in 1999, aims to replace its fleet with used F-16s and train its pilots to fly them.

Poland, which joined NATO in 1999, aims to replace its fleet with used F-16s and train its pilots to fly them.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

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In the letter sent Monday, Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Robert Portman, R-Ohio, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., urged the Pentagon to increase the speed at which it was deploying the defensive aid agreed to in May under the $20 billion “Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations” package.

 “While the medium- and long-range air defense capabilities and HIMARS included in the June 27, 2022, and July 8, 2022 aid packages are a good start, these systems must be delivered at a pace and in quantity sufficient to impact the outcome of the fighting in the Donbas, Kherson and other regions,” the senators wrote in the letter obtained by Fox News Digital. 

“We urge you to act expeditiously, while coordinating with NATO allies and partners, to get this equipment to the Ukrainian military immediately,” the letter added. 

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