The Ukrainian Air Force (UAF) which is looking to replace its Soviet-era MiG-29s and Su-27s should opt for the F-15EX over the F-35 stealth fighter, according to the former chief designer of the Antonov State Enterprise, Alexander Los.
Due to a continuous radar field of the Russian army, which is already able to capture inconspicuous objects, the F-35’s stealth characteristics are of no great advantage. “We must understand that the same F-35 will not come to Ukraine, even if we become members of NATO. Because we are at the border from the Russian Federation, a continuous radar field of the Russian army, which is already able to capture inconspicuous objects,” Los said in an interview with the Ukrainian news portal, Defense Express.
Buying U.S.-made aircraft would enhance Ukraine’s interoperability with NATO, critically important for a nation that has the longest border with Russia.
He added that the F-15EX with its much larger weapons payload and higher speed could outfly and outgun Russian fighter jet. “The F-15EX can accommodate 24 units of heavy weapons. It can work together with the F-35, which plays the role of a passive ‘listener’ and provides targeting. That is, the F-15EX discharges its weapons from a great distance on targets detected by other aircraft,” the official noted.
An older report by Breaking Defense said that “Despite the Ukrainian Air Force’s preference for the US F-15EX, a purchase of the Rafale could carry the day – and solve a vexing problem for Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.”
There are rumors that Ukraine would be rewarded for buying the Rafale with a pledge that the French aerospace and defense group SAFRAN would acquire Motor Sich. This would keep the business running and its personnel employed, averting a major unemployment headache for the Ukrainian President – and would also please Washington by keeping the company out of Chinese hands.