Ukraine could receive F-16 fighters from Spring 2024
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskky (left) and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen pose in a Danish F-16 fighter in August this year. Credit: Ukrainian MoD
Ukraine could begin to receive F-16 aircraft from Spring of 2024 as part of initial operating capability being provided by Nato allies to Kyiv, as it combats Russian forces following Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of its neighbour.
The development was revealed during a press briefing on 11 October following the 16th meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group (UDCG), which comprises 50 nations that are committed to supporting Ukraine in its ongoing war against Russia.
Briefing the media, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said that it “would take months” to deliver an F-16 capability to Ukraine, potentially by the Spring of 2024 “at the earliest”.
The US will also move to the front of the Nato pack in helping to deliver air combat capabilities to Ukraine following the announcement it would lead an ‘airforce capability coalition’, with other such groupings focused on armour, artillery, naval, IT infrastructure, and landmine clearance.
Austin said that the US would “step up to help lead” the air force component of the capability coalitions, with Denmark and the Netherlands described as “co-leading” the group.
Britain’s first Archer howitzer arrives
The UK's first Archer 6x6 wheeled 155mm artillery system has arrived six months after the UK Government agreed to acquire 14 platforms from the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration.
The agreement also includes the delivery of an Ammunition Resupply System, an initial ammunition suite, a training package and an initial support package. The Archer is a fully autonomous 52 calibre gun with a 40km range using standard ammunition, but 60km range with M982 Excalibur rounds.
Having donated 24 of its 89 calibre AS90 Braveheart howitzers to Ukraine – artillery systems that are only expected to be operational until 2032 – the UK Ministry of Defence acquired the 14 Archers as an interim replacement to balance its inventory.
However, the acquisition should not conflict the UK’s long-term plan to introduce a new long-range artillery capability by the end of the decade through the Mobile Fires Programme, intended to permanently replace the ageing AS90 systems.
The UK has sought to improve the speed at which platforms are delivered, and avoid the length delays that have become common in the country's defence procurement programmes.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet withdraws from Crimea port
Russia has withdrawn at least ten Black Sea Fleet vessels from Sevastopol port in the annexed territory of Crimea following a succession of Ukrainian missile strikes, according to satellite imagery and reports from US think tank the Institute of War.
The vessels, which include three attack submarines and two frigates, have been hastily relocated to Russia’s Novorossiysk port, 381km away on the Black Sea’s eastern coastline.
The Institute of War says the retreat offers greater protection to Russia’s fleet. Ukraine has targeted Russian vessels and buildings with a series of missile strikes in recent weeks, including in an aerial assault on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol on 22 September.
UK Defence Minister James Heappey hailed the Black Sea Fleet’s withdrawal as a “functional defeat” for Russia at the Warsaw Security Forum in Poland on 3 October.
It is also a boost for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, during which Kyiv has vowed to retake control of the Crimean Peninsula seized by Russia in 2014.
Nato deploys AWACS to Lithuania to monitor Russian activity
Nato has temporarily deployed Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance planes to Šiauliai, Lithuania, with the first of two aircraft arriving on 28 September, to perform missions to monitor Russian military activity near the Alliance’s borders.
According to a Nato release, the Alliance boosted its air presence in the eastern areas of the bloc’s territory with additional fighters, surveillance aircraft, and airborn refuelling tankers in response to Russia’s “war of aggression” against Ukraine.
In the wake of recent Russian drone strikes near Nato territory, the US deployed four additional F-16 fighter aircraft to Romania to enhance Nato’s air policing mission. Since February 2022, Nato AWACS have conducted hundreds of flights over eastern Europe to monitor Russian aircraft.
The additional AWACS will start their reconnaissance flights over Alliance territory in the coming days, with the mission scheduled to last “several weeks”.
The aircraft belong to a fleet of 14 Nato-owned surveillance aircraft based in Geilenkirchen, Germany.
UK Forces to deploy to Kosovo
As the situation deteriorates in northern Kosovo, the UK has ordered the deployment of additional forces to the country following a request from Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe.
Drawn from the 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, 200 soldiers will deploy to Kosovo to ‘maintain a safe and secure environment’ for the people of Kosovo, according to an announcement made by the UK Ministry of Defence, on 1 October.
The UK forces being deployed will join 400 other UK personnel already in-country as a part of Nato’s Kosovo mission, KFOR, a peacekeeping force first established in 1999 to deter renewed hostility following the air campaign against Slobodan Milošević’s regime.
KFOR consits of 4,500 troops from 27 Allied and partner countries, with a mandate from a United Nations Security Council Resolution supported by the UK.
The announcement follows a deadly attack on 24 September in Banjska in Northern Kosovo which resulted in the death of a police officer.