More countries using advanced F-35 fighter jets could free up F-16s for Ukraine, former Lockheed Martin exec says

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More countries using advanced F-35 fighter jets could free up F-16s for Ukraine, former Lockheed Martin exec says
An F-16 jet.US Air Force
  • More militaries are turning to F-35s for their air forces, a former Lockheed Martin exec said.
  • Tom Burbage told Newsweek that the adoption of F-35s frees up F-16s for air forces like Ukraine's.
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Militaries are increasingly turning to advanced F-35 fighter jets, and this is freeing up F-16 jets that could be sent to Ukraine, a former executive at Lockheed Martin told Newsweek.

Tom Burbage, who was previously Lockheed Martin's F-35 general manager, said that militaries are adopting F-35s, and that does "free up the F-16" for air forces like Ukraine's.

Burbage pointed to Finland recently signing up to receive F-35s, joining 14 other nations, as evidence that hesitation to join the program was fading.

And he said that for any country allied with the US and NATO "it would seem natural" that they eventually adopt the F-35.

Ukraine has been asking for F-16s for more than a year, to counter Russia's full-scale invasion of the country, which began in February 2022. It says the aircraft would boost its air force, which is currently made up of Soviet-era jets.

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Experts say that Ukraine receiving advanced jets could help to deter Russia's air force, which hasn't played a notable role in the invasion due to Ukraine's advanced air defense systems.

Retired Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, a former senior commander in the UK's air force, told Newsweek that F-16s are "slowly becoming 'surplus' because of the F-35 orders."

But it's not clear when more F-16s might become available.

The US has pushed back on plans to replace its F-16 jets with F-35s due to delays in production, and the process of transitioning to F-35s could take years.

Even so, the US has said that it wants to boost Ukraine's air force over the long term, and Ukraine's allies have been moving closer to giving it F-16s.

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US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told Fox News on Thursday that Ukraine will get F-16s "probably towards the end of the year," but he did not say which country's stocks they would come from.

Kirby also said that supplies like ammunition and tanks were ultimately more important to Ukraine.

In May, the US said it would allow its allies to send the US-made jet to Ukraine, though no countries have actually committed to sending F-16s yet.

The US and multiple European countries are, however, helping to train Ukraine pilots on the jets.

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