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Wednesday, March 09, 2022

AIR FORCE VETS REPS LIEU AND HOULAHAN URGE USAF TO GIVE UKRAINE WEAPONS SYSTEMS

 AIR FORCE VETS REPS LIEU AND HOULAHAN URGE USAF TO GIVE UKRAINE WEAPONS SYSTEMS

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) urged the United States Air Force to immediately explore providing Ukraine with U.S. weapons systems. The Members, who are both U.S. Air Force veterans, wrote a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall outlining how the Air Force can support Ukraine as it defends its democracy. By providing weapons systems like A-10s and drones, the United States can help Ukraine in the airpower arena as Ukraine’s valiant military fights Russia’s aggression.

In the letter, the Members write:

Dear Secretary Kendall,

We write to thank you for your service during this challenging time and to raise our concerns about the current situation in Ukraine. The resolve and ability of the Ukrainian military, along with an apparent lack of preparedness on the part of the Russian military, have upended expectations of a brief conflict. The Russians are reportedly recruiting Syrians with urban combat experience to fight in cities in Ukraine, demonstrating that the Russian military understands this could be a protracted military engagement. The President of Ukraine recently informed Congress that the main weakness of the Ukrainian military is a lack of airpower. We are therefore requesting the Air Force immediately explore transferring U.S. weapons systems to Ukraine to level the battlespace.

We both served in the Air Force and understand the lethality of our weapons systems. These platforms can help reduce the airpower disadvantage of the Ukrainian military. It is our understanding some Ukrainian pilots, through prior exchange programs, can fly the A-10, which was designed to destroy tanks and armored vehicles. The Air Force also has sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Our various UAVs can provide surveillance, target acquisition, and drop ordnance. We sincerely hope our NATO allies will provide Soviet-made jets to the Ukrainian military in the coming days. If that does not happen, the Air Force should consider the transfer of F-16 directly to the Ukrainian military.

This process is not as simple as merely providing the equipment -- some of these Air Force weapons systems will require training. It will take around two to three months to train Ukrainian pilots and ground crews on the F-16. It may take less time to train the Ukrainians how to use our UAVs. As for the A-10s, however, as noted above, some Ukrainian pilots may have already flown them, providing for a much shorter delay from transmission to utility. Furthermore, the A-10 is a legacy system that the Air Force has consistently attempted to retire in recent years but has been repeatedly denied by certain members of Congress. This is an opportunity to remove outdated systems from our arsenal and support an ally in desperate need at the same time.

While we strongly urge you to begin the process of transferring any and all weapons systems the Ukrainians need, we ask that you prioritize systems like the A-10 that can be put to immediate use. We don’t doubt that members of the Ukrainian military will be highly motivated to learn how to use different systems as quickly as possible while they fight for their lives. But while they get up to speed, they still need to be able to protect and defend their loved ones and their homeland.

The U.S. has already provided lethal Javelins and Stingers to the Ukrainian military to destroy Russian vehicles and aircraft. There is no principled distinction between a member of the Ukrainian military destroying a Russian tank with a Javelin or from an A-10. In addition, the mere fact that the Air Force is planning for the possibility of sending different weapons platforms to Ukraine sends the signal to Vladimir Putin that the U.S. will not back down, whether this is a quick war or a long war.

We understand that it will be logistically difficult to provide weapons systems such as the A-10 to the Ukrainian military, and that there will be critics who say the Ukrainian military can’t handle these systems. But challenging logistics or skeptical critics haven’t stopped us from doing the right thing before, and they shouldn’t now. We understand that what we are asking you to do is not easy. But with the survival of a democratic Ukraine at stake, we’re sure you’d agree that we have little other choice.

Thank you in advance for strongly considering our request. We stand ready to offer any and all assistance Congress can provide in this endeavor.

Sincerely,

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