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Australia Says ‘Complicated’ to Supply Ukraine With Planes

Australia’s defense minister on Thursday cast doubt over a proposal to bolster Ukraine’s military with retired fighter jets, saying Kyiv’s request for extra air power posed a “complicated question.”

Australia ramped up its support for Ukraine on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania overnight, pledging to send an additional fleet of 30 armored Bushmaster infantry vehicles at a cost of $67 million.

But Kyiv has also asked Australia about the condition of dozens of retired F-18 fighter jets, which could provide a major boost against the might of the Russian air force.

Defense Minister Richard Marles said conversations about providing aircraft were “ongoing” but were much more difficult than other forms of military support.

“Aircraft become a much more complicated question,” he told national broadcaster ABC.

“The situation around aircraft is pretty complicated, but we will keep having the conversation with Ukraine around that.

“What we give, and what we do, needs to be practical and needs to make a difference.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said in June that Kyiv was interested in the aircraft.

“There has been a request for information,” Myroshnychenko said. “Ukraine is looking at fighter jet capabilities, including this one.”

The Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet of 71 F-18s was retired between 2019 and 2021, making way for state-of-the-art F-35s.

Military analysts have estimated that some 40 jets are currently sitting in storage, although it is not clear how many of these are ready to fly.

Ukraine currently has an estimated 82 fighter and attack jets, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance publication

Any deal to send the aircraft to Ukraine will require a substantial amount of diplomatic and logistical wrangling and is unlikely to be struck quickly.

Earlier this week, Australia announced it would temporarily deploy an E-7A Wedgetail surveillance plane to Germany for six months, which will monitor supply lines running into Ukraine.

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