Ukrainian Top Gun pilots push US to buy jets, senator says lawmakers will ‘press deal’ with White House

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EXCLUSIVE: Two Ukrainian Air Force fighter pilots traveled from the front lines in the war against Russia to Washington, D.C. this week to convince Congress of the importance of getting them urgently needed equipment, including fourth-generation combat aircraft.

The two pilots, identified only by the call signs “Juice” and “Moonfish” for protection, told Fox News they met with lawmakers behind closed doors on Thursday to clarify what is needed in the immediate and intermediate sense.

“They send their attack aircraft and helicopters at low altitudes across the front lines to attack our fighters in the trenches,” Juice explained. “We need to respond, we need to intercept them. We need to save the lives of our citizens and ground troops.”

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A ground officer operates a MiG-29 fighter jet of the Ukrainian Air Force during a training session at a military air base near Kyiv, November 2016.

A ground officer operates a MiG-29 fighter jet of the Ukrainian Air Force during a training session at a military air base near Kyiv, November 2016.
(Photo by Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Juice, whose squadron rose to fame in the early days of the war when they took to the skies to defend Kyiv, said air defense is the number one priority for Ukrainian fighters.

The pilots said first of all, Ukrainian fighters on the ground and in the sky, better surveillance and response systems are needed to counter and detect the Russian missile barrage.

The couple listed protection range they spoke to lawmakers about it, though Fox News withheld details about the systems at the request of officials involved in the talks.

The US has supplied Ukraine with a range of heavy artillery such as howitzers, javelins and Stinger missiles to help resistance fighters fend off the Russian advance, but Juice said that was not enough.

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“The air defense is pretty fast, but it depends on the mutual level of air defense,” the pilot told Fox News. “We are already receiving Stinger missiles. This is the lowest level of air defense. He is very effective for his role, but we need a simple next level of air defense.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky inspects the site of a recent battle in Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4.  4, 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky inspects the site of a recent battle in Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4. 4, 2022.
((AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky))

Ukrainian leaders have been begging the United States and other NATO countries for months to supply them with modern combat aircraft, including F-16s or F-15s.

The Biden administration has refused to send warplanes to Ukraine over fears that it would escalate tensions with Russia.

However, as the war enters its fourth month and billions of dollars of U.S. defense aid continue to flow into Ukraine, militants on the front lines argue that combat aircraft are also needed to adequately counter Russia and end a costly war.

Republican Senator from Alaska. Dan Sullivan, who held a meeting Thursday with a group of about 10 bipartisan lawmakers, including a senator. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Roger Wicker, Ms. R, Lindsey Graham, R.S., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Jim Rish, R-Idaho and Illinois Democrats Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin said “there’s not much hesitation in Congress.”

“I think they should have the weapons systems they think they need to win,” he told Fox News. “And it’s not very useful for us to doubt it.”

Ukrainian soldiers shell Russian positions with a US-supplied M777 howitzer in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region June 18, 2022.  US officials will send another $450 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers shell Russian positions with a US-supplied M777 howitzer in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region June 18, 2022. US officials will send another $450 million in military aid to Ukraine.
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, file)

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The senator acknowledged that Ukrainian pilots would need to be trained in fourth-generation combat aircraft, although Ukrainian pilots believe that this can be done on an accelerated basis within three to six months.

Sullivan, who called the meeting “powerful,” said the senators would not only work to ensure that Kyiv got what it needed in the immediate sense, but also said they would “bring it up” to the administration and the Pentagon when it came down to it. before the supply of Ukrainian soldiers with modern combat aircraft.

“These guys left the front line. And they are coming back. Most likely, they will fight on Monday,” he said. “It adds a little more spice and credibility to what they’re looking for.”

Ukrainian pilots relied heavily on MiG-29 combat aircraft of the Soviet erabut obsolete aircraft do not have the technological advances needed in modern warfare.

“If you engage a Russian fighter jet head to head, I wouldn’t even find it on the radar screen. [by the time] he’s already fired a missile,” Juice explained, “intercepting them is almost a suicide mission.”

Despite the enormous danger that Juice, Moonfish and their fellow pilots face in the cockpit, they continue to return to the skies to participate in Russian combat sorties.

MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 24: Russian military and pro-Russian separatists watch the evacuation of civilians along humanitarian corridors from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 24, 2022.  (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu agency via Getty Images)

MARIUPOL, UKRAINE – MARCH 24: Russian military and pro-Russian separatists watch the evacuation of civilians along humanitarian corridors from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 24, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by Stringer/Anadolu agency via Getty Images)

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“The modern field of warfare is a war of numbers, distances, ranges, kill ratios, and our kill ratio is not enough to be effective,” he added. “Our air and ground defenses have proven to be effective and effective against them. That is why they suffered great losses from the very beginning of this war.

“But our ground defense is not able to cover the whole country, it is not as mobile as fighters. You need both,” Juice urged.