Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine
Ukraine’s air force has added about 20 more operational aircraft to its fleet due to an influx of spare parts, according to a senior US defense official.
Although the official did not specify which country was supplying the plane parts, the official said Wednesday that the United States and other countries were working “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. They have 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 add to its existing workforce.
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 in fact been made,” the official said. “That offer didn’t go through, so I was ahead of the current situation.” 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 Volodymyr 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 official Ukrainian Air Force Twitter account said: “Ukraine has not received new planes from partners! With the help of the US government, @KpsZSU received spare parts and components for the restoration and repair of the armed forces aircraft fleet, 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 accounted for about 80% of its fixed-wing fighters. But the Ukrainians weren’t using their planes much, flying only 5-10 missions a day, the official said.
CNN’s Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.