In an interview on Wednesday with the Financial Times Lockheed Martin’s chief operating officer (COO,) Frank St. John, said there is “a lot of conversation about third party transfer of F-16s.” St. John went on to say that his company will ramp up production of the jets so they’ll be prepared to “backfill pretty capably any countries that choose to do third-party transfers to help with the current conflict.” However, the United States and other NATO countries have been reluctant to provide Ukraine with fighter jets over concerns they could be used to strike Russian territory which Russia has laid out as one of their red lines. This is of course an issue for Lockheed because any sales or transfers to third countries of any American-made fighter jets must also be approved by the White House.
A US Defense official recently told the Financial Times “Along with our international allies and partners, we are in regular communication with the Ukrainians on their needs and requests,” but said there’s “nothing to announce regarding F-16s.” Officials from the Netherlands however recently said they would consider a request to send planes to Ukraine with “an open mind” and that they “hold no taboos” when it comes to supplying Ukraine with further military aid including aircraft. The Dutch currently operate about 40 F-16s.
The Germans on the other hand have taken the opposite stance on sending jets to Ukraine. On Wednesday German chancellor Olaf Scholz said “I made clear very early on that we wouldn’t be sending combat aircraft and I’ll say that again here.” Germany however does not operate any F-16s. Another European proposal for sending planes to Ukraine would be Poland sending their MiG-29 fighters which would then be backfilled with F-16s from the US. This proposal was first floated in March of 2022 but was shot down by the US after they deemed it to be too escalatory. Sending the Soviet designed MiG-29s would take away the issue of American planes possibly being used to strike Russian territory while still bringing a pay day for the US’s largest arms manufacturer. However, this technicality would not stop the Russians from seeing the arming of Ukraine with jet fighters as a further escalatory act by the US led west.