The message was heard loud and clear in Washington and Paris — Ukraine is shopping for new fighter jets.
Intelligence Online sources say Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government has secretly been putting out feelers for one of the most strategic European defense contracts, the replacement of Ukraine’s aging Soviet-era fighter jet fleet.
The dossier is said to be at the top of the agenda of French President Emmanuel Macron’s upcoming visit to Ukraine, which will probably be pushed back from its initial end of March slot.
The French government reckons that the state-of-the-art Dassault-built Rafale has every chance of winning the tender in the former Russian industry bastion, thanks to having a significant commercial apparatus already in place, Intelligence Online reported.
Since Ukraine is cash-strapped, the Rafale deal, like other French defence contracts in Ukraine, would be 85% guaranteed by France. The French finance ministry has already earmarked €1.5 billion to cover this.
Kiev is hesitating between light fighters, like the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, or a heavier, multi-role fighter, such as Dassault’s Rafale and Boeing’s tried and true FA-18 Super Hornet.
Kiev is hesitating between light fighters, in which case the F-16 would be the favorite, or heavier multi-role fighters, which would open the competition to Dassault’s Rafale and Boeing’s FA-18, Intelligence Online reported.
Without question, the US will not want to miss out on the opportunity to have American fighter jets on Russia’s doorstep, which would be a major blow for the Kremlin of Vladimir Putin.
Look to see the FA-18 presented to the Ukrainian authorities in the near future, as the Biden administration looks to beef up its support to Kiev.
Congress is already providing generous defense and security aid to Ukraine, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which the country today would struggle to manage without, Intelligence Online reported.
Washington also provides other forms of assistance to the Ukrainian defence industry, with a number of US officials seconded to defence ministry entities such as the defence conglomerate Ukroboronprom.
Meanwhile, French companies have landed an array of contracts in Ukraine since 2014 with the support of the country’s evergreen interior minister Arsen Avakov, Intelligence Online reported
When President Macron pays his upcoming visit to the country, the Franco-Ukrainian defense council will probably make much of the Ukrainian order for 20 FPB 98 light patrol vessels that went to leading shipyard OCEA Group, last year.
At the same time, the French Airbus Group will not wish to draw attention to its contract to supply 55 H225 and H125 helicopters, which has been beset by delivery problems. To date only five helicopters have been delivered.
The Ukrainian fleet officially contains 30-odd MiG-29 and Sukhoi-27. Sources say their sale has yet to be launched.
The fleet is short one less MiG-29 (NATO call sign Fulcrum), after a drunken Ukrainian Air Force officer at the wheel of a Volkswagen Touran crashed into one last week at Vasylkiv Air Base in central Ukraine, sparking a fire, causing damage to the fighter jet and much embarrassment to the Ukrainian Air Force’s Air Command.
As with previous major defense deals in Morocco, Qatar and elsewhere, the DGSE and CIA’s economic investigators will be keeping a close eye on the contract.
(Note: Asia Times would like to extend a special thanks to Pierre Gastineau at Intelligence Online, which specializes in news about corporate and government intelligence in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia.)