Let’s take Biden at his word (although one could reasonably argue that he doesn’t understand what he’s saying most of the time) — World War III has begun. Not since Nadia Comaneci wowed the world with her performance at the 1976 Olympics have we seen Biden’s retro back flip on sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
Will Biden double down and answer President Zelensky’s impassioned call for American-made F-16s? If past performance predicts the future, the answer is yes. But sending F-16s (or any other fighter jet) to Ukraine is a real problem. Don’t take my word for it. Hear from Professor Justin Bronk, Editor of RUSI Defense Systems:
First and foremost is the problem of Russia’s dense and highly lethal network of land-based surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. Skies over Ukraine’s frontlines are covered by multiple layers of air defense threats from large, long-range systems, such as the infamous SA-21 ‘Triumf’ (known as the S-400 in Russia), to more numerous and mobile medium-range. SAMs such as the SA-17 ‘Buk’ and the short-range SA-15 ‘Tor’.
Running: LIVE NOW: Here’s President Trump’s Response to Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address – Video
The United States has delivered a significant number of AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARM) to the UkrAF. . . . But HARM does not come close to removing the threat from Russian air defenses against Ukrainian jets.
This is important because any Western jet that could possibly be delivered to Ukraine would face the same major threat from Russian SAMs. Even the full force of NATO air power would require a serious campaign to destroy Russia’s integrated air defense system, and doing so would cause damage. . . .
However, there is a limit to how effective terrain masking can be in the vast flat terrain of eastern and southern Ukraine, and in any case flying at too low an altitude would seriously reduce the effectiveness of combat aircraft in many critical missions.
In other words, Ukraine needs the equivalent of a US air force if it wants to weaken Russia on the battlefield. It won’t. If Ukraine succeeds in obtaining the planes and flying them into combat, the most likely outcome is an astronomical cost in terms of airframes and pilots.
The Debbie Downer message is not limited to viewers. The Financial Times is also now raising a cautionary voice about the problems ahead:
The Financial Times has announced an ammunition supply crisis in Europe due to the conflict in Ukraine
According to the newspaper, the record demand for ammunition created a huge burden on Europe’s industrial capacity
The conflict in Ukraine has fueled a significant munitions supply crisis in Europe, as arms makers try both to replenish the state’s national stockpiles and ensure supplies to Kiev.
According to the FT, record demand for munitions places a huge burden on Europe’s industrial capacity. According to experts, Ukraine needs more than 5 thousand shells per day, an amount equal to the annual order of a small European state. Lack of manufacturing capacity and shortages of critical raw materials put additional pressure on the supply chain. Also, supply chains disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic are yet to fully recover.
Morten Brandsegg, CEO of Norwegian-Finnish defense company Nammor, told the publication that demand for some components has grown so much that delivery times to customers have increased from months to years. In an effort to meet demand and reduce ammunition production and delivery times, many companies have increased the number of production shifts and are hiring more employees. German Rheinmetall, in particular, plans to build a new plant in Hungary and restart previously canceled ventures.
Let me translate. Whatever the US and the rest of NATO do to ramp up arms and ammunition production, aid is years away.
Another prominent media outlet changed its tune about Ukraine. Moon of Alabama provides an excellent summary of a New York Times op-ed about the war in Ukraine, the Ukrainians outnumbered and worn out in the eastern bracket for the Russian invasion. You can read it on his site.
What if Germany could send some Leopard tanks to Ukraine? Astute critics note that skilled tank crews would need several months of training before they would be ready to drive on the battlefield. Austrian Colonel Reisner suggested a novel solution to overcome this problem:
I doubt that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead had President Zelensky in mind when he wrote Casey Jones, but I think the words to that classic tune fit right now. Trouble ahead and trouble behind.