Lockheed Says It’s Ready With F-16s If US and Allies Choose to Send Them to Ukraine

The arms maker says it's ramping up production of the fighter jet

Lockheed Martin has said that it’s ready to meet demands for F-16 fighter jets if the US and its allies choose to ship them to Ukraine.

So far, the US and its allies have been hesitant to send fighter jets to Ukraine due to concerns that they could be used to target Russian territory. But the Western powers seem less and less concerned about escalation as the US and Germany have now pledged to send their main battle tanks.

Frank St. John, chief operating officer of Lockheed, told Financial Times that there has been a “lot of conversation about third-party transfer of F-16s,” which would involve European nations armed with the F-16 shipping them to Ukraine.

St. John said Lockheed wasn’t involved in the conversations but was preparing for the eventuality. He said the arms maker was “going to be ramping production on F-16s in Greenville [South Carolina] to get to the place where we will be able to backfill pretty capably any countries that choose to do third-party transfers to help with the current conflict.”

The Netherlands expressed openness to sending its F-16s to Ukraine last week, with the Dutch foreign minister saying it would look at any requests for the aircraft with an “open mind.” Another option could be for former Warsaw pact countries that are now NATO members to send their older Soviet-made MiG fighter jets to Ukraine and replace them with F-16s or other modern Western-made aircraft.

A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman claimed on Tuesday that the US and Ukraine have already determined an aircraft that Washington will provide for Kyiv. The spokesman didn’t specify which one, and there’s been no sign from the American side has agreed to send planes.

Throughout the war, Ukraine has been lobbying for the US to provide F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, which would involve months of training for Ukrainian forces. The US has already pledged weapons systems that require extensive training, including the Patriot missile defense systems and M1 Abrams tanks.

Lockheed Martin has benefited greatly from the war in Ukraine as many of its weapons systems are now in high demand, including the HIMARS rocket systems and Javelin anti-tank missiles. President Biden showed his appreciation for the arms maker last May when he visited a Lockheed Martin plant producing Javelins and said, “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.