How many fighter jets does the UK have? Zelensky seeks ‘jets coalition’

How many fighter jets does the UK have? Zelensky seeks ‘jets coalition’

Ukraine’s president intends to create a “jets coalition” following face-to-face talks with Rishi Sunak, as the UK pledged to send hundreds of new long-range attack drones to Ukraine.

Following talks with Mr Sunak at Chequers, regarding military aid for his country, Volodymyr Zelensky said jets are a “very important topic for us because we can’t control the sky”.

He added: “I think you will hear important decisions in the closest time, but we have to work a bit more.”

The prime minister said the UK would start training Ukrainian pilots to use Western fighter jets “relatively soon”, with a new flying school set to be opened.

Mr Sunak said the pair discussed “long-term” security arrangements from allied countries for Ukraine, as its troops prepare for a counteroffensive against Russia’s invading forces.

Previously, the president of Ukraine had pleaded with the UK and other Western allies to provide his air force with “wings for freedom”, by supplying fighter jets.

The request was made during his first trip to the UK since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.

In a speech to the legislature, Mr Zelensky thanked the UK for its unwavering assistance during the conflict.

However, he declared that more aircraft were required to defeat Vladimir Putin's forces as he gave Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle the helmet of a Ukrainian fighter ace.

He said: “I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words: combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Sky News)
President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Sky News)

How many fighter jets does the UK have?

The Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning are the two primary fighter jet types used by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

It has 30 F-35Bs, all but one of which are operational, and 130 Typhoons, of which 101 are operational. This indicates that there are 130 active fighter jets in the RAF.

Seven of the 48 F-35Bs that the UK ordered from the US last year have already arrived. A mishap caused the loss of one of the aircraft.

The UK will have 70 F-35Bs when the final 40 arrive, with plans to buy more.

Will the UK supply Ukraine with fighter jets?

Downing Street said an elementary flying phase for cohorts of Ukrainian pilots will begin this summer.

It follows the Government’s announcement of the provision of hundreds of air-defence missiles, and further unmanned aerial systems, including hundreds of new long-range attack drones with a range of more than 200km.

These will be delivered over the next few months.

Speaking from the prime minister’s country retreat, Mr Zelenskyy said Ukrainians are “thankful from all our hearts” for the support provided by the UK Government.

It follows Mr Sunak’s pledge, on the first anniversary of the conflict in February, that UK forces would train Ukrainian fighter pilots and Marines.

The arguments for and against supplying Ukraine with fighter jets

Mr Zelenksy has previously stated that the sooner Ukraine receives heavy, long-range weapons and modern planes, “the quicker this Russian aggression will end”.

Since the start of the war, Moscow has repeatedly warned the West against supplying weapons and has threatened to take action against any “provocations”.

When asked by reporters in Moscow about the rising controversy about sending warplanes to Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded that Russia saw it as evidence of the UK, France, and Germany's growing involvement in the conflict.

The fact that a decision on warplanes will be made collectively has already been emphasised by a number of EU politicians.

Some people are anxious to keep the discussion out of the public eye, while others worry about an escalation and feeding Russian narratives.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that many sensitive issues had to be discussed before a decision could be made on supplying fighter jets. “The pros and cons — you have to make absolutely sure that you are not getting into an Article Five direct confrontation between Nato and Russia.”

While Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz agreed only recently to allow German Leopard tanks to be used in the conflict and has warned against getting involved in a “public bidding war” of weapons systems for Ukraine.