Ukraine’s air force has added about 20 more operational planes after the influx of spare parts, a senior US defense official says

Although the official did not specify which country provided the plane parts, the official said Wednesday that the United States and other countries have worked “to get them the parts they need to get them flying. “.

The flow of spare parts has allowed Ukraine to expand its fleet of operational military aircraft, despite the ongoing Russian invasion. The country has more planes now than three weeks ago, the official said.

A day earlier, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Ukraine had received additional fighter jets to boost its troop strength.

But on Wednesday, the top defense official reversed that decision, saying Ukraine had not received more planes, but had in fact received plane parts to make its existing planes more functional.

Still, the official hinted that at least one country was considering sending more planes to Ukraine.

“I was made to understand that an offer made by another country had indeed been made,” the official said. “That offer didn’t go through, so I was ahead of where things actually were.” It is unclear which country made such an offer.

The United States pledged to send Ukraine 16 Mi-17 helicopters, but the administration refused to get involved in a transfer of MiG-29s from another country to Ukraine via the United States .

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked other countries for Soviet-era MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets, which Ukrainian pilots already know how to fly.

Zelensky has asked other Eastern European countries with fourth-generation cells to send them to Ukraine, but no country has yet agreed to do so.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Air Force’s official Twitter account said: “Ukraine did not receive new aircraft from partners! With the help of the US government, @KpsZSU received spare parts and components for the restoration and repair of the aircraft fleet in the Armed Forces, which will allow more equipment to be put into service.”

The Ukrainian Air Force is part of its air defense network, which also includes S-300 surface-to-air missiles and man-portable anti-aircraft missiles. The combination of platforms prevented Russia from establishing air superiority over Ukraine and controlling the skies.

Despite constant Russian missile and artillery bombardments, as well as strikes against military bases, the Ukrainian Air Force remained largely intact, although it suffered some casualties.

In early March, about two weeks into the war, the defense official said Ukraine had 56 fighter jets, which made up about 80% of its fixed-wing fighters. But the Ukrainians weren’t using their planes much, flying only five to 10 missions a day, the official said.

Even now, with more operational aircraft, the Ukrainian Air Force still conducts a very limited number of daily sorties, another defense official said.

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