Ukrainian Top Gun pilots push US for jets, senator says lawmakers will ‘back the deal’ with White House

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EXCLUSIVE: This week, two Ukrainian Air Force fighter pilots traveled from the front lines of the war against Russia to Washington, DC, to lobby Congress on the importance of providing them with the equipment they urgently needed, including fourth-generation warplanes.

The two pilots, who were only identified by their call signs “Juice” and “Moonfish” for their protection, told Fox News they sat down with lawmakers in a closed meeting. Thursday to detail what is needed in the immediate and intermediate sense.

“They’re sending their attack jets and helicopters low across the front lines to attack our fighters in the trenches,” Juice explained. “We have to react, we have to intercept them. We have to save the lives of our citizens and our ground troops.”

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A ground staff member directs a Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 fighter jet during a training session at a military airbase outside Kyiv in November 2016.
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A ground staff member directs a Ukrainian Air Force MiG-29 fighter jet during a training session at a military airbase outside Kyiv in November 2016.
(Photo by Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Juice, whose squadron gained notoriety early in the war as it flew to defend Kyiv, said air defense was the number one priority for Ukrainian fighters.

Above all, the pilots said that Ukrainian fighters on the ground and in the sky needed more advanced surveillance and response systems to counter and detect the barrage of Russian missile fire.

Both men listed a range of defenses they spoke to lawmakers about, though Fox News withheld details of the systems at the request of officials involved in the talks.

The United States provided Ukraine with an array of heavy artillery like Howitzer, Javelin and Stinger missiles to help resistance fighters repel Russian advances, but Juice said that was not enough.

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“Air defense is pretty immediate, but it depends on a mutual level of air defense,” the pilot told Fox News. “We are already receiving Stinger missiles. This is the lowest level of air defense. It is very effective for its role, but we need just a higher level air defense.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy surveys the site of a recent battle in Bucha, near Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy surveys the site of a recent battle in Bucha, near Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022.
((AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky))

Ukraine’s leaders have been begging the United States and other NATO nations for months to provide them with modern fighter jets, including F-16s or F-15s.

The Biden administration has refused to send Ukrainian fighter jets, fearing it could escalate tensions with Russia.

However, as the war drags on for a fourth month and billions of dollars in US defensive aid continue to flow into Ukraine, frontline fighters say fighter jets are also needed to confront Russia in a meaningful way. adequate and end the costly war.

Republican Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, who led Thursday’s meeting with a group of about 10 bipartisan lawmakers, including Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Lindsey Graham, R.C., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Jim Risch, R-Idaho and Illinois Sens Democrats. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, said that “reluctance doesn’t exist so much in Congress.”

“I think they should have the weapons systems they think they need to win,” he told Fox News. “And it’s not very helpful for us to guess that.”

Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on June 18, 2022. US officials will send an additional $450 million military aid to Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on June 18, 2022. US officials will send an additional $450 million military aid to Ukraine.
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

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The senator acknowledged that Ukrainian pilots would need to be trained on fourth-generation warplanes, although Ukrainian pilots believe this could be completed on an accelerated basis over a period of three to six months.

Sullivan, who called the meeting “powerful,” said the senators will not only work to ensure Kyiv gets what it needs immediately, but also said they would “put pressure on the case” with the administration and the Pentagon regarding the supply of Ukrainian soldiers. with modern warplanes.

“These guys are out of the front lines. And they’re going back. They’ll probably fight on Monday,” he said. “It adds a little more emotion and credibility to what they’re looking for.”

Ukrainian pilots relied heavily on Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, but dated planes lack the technological advancements needed in modern warfare.

“If you engage with a Russian fighter, face-to-face combat, I wouldn’t even find him on the radar screen [by the time] he’s already launched a missile,” Juice explained. “It’s almost a suicide mission to intercept them.”

Despite the immense danger Juice, Moonfish and their fellow pilots face in the cockpit, they continue to return to the skies to engage in Russian sorties.

MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 24: Russian military and pro-Russian separatists monitor the evacuation of civilians along humanitarian corridors in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 24, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

MARIUPOL, UKRAINE – MARCH 24: Russian military and pro-Russian separatists monitor the evacuation of civilians along humanitarian corridors in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 24, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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“The realm of modern warfare is a war of numbers, distances, ranges, kill ratios and our kill ratio is not enough to be effective,” he added. “Our air defense and ground defense have proven capable and effective against them. That is why they have suffered heavy casualties since the beginning of this war.

“But our ground defense is not capable of covering the whole country, it’s not as mobile as fighter jets. You need both,” Juice insisted.

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