Ukrainian Air Force added about 20 other operational aircraft to its fleet due to the influx of spare parts, according to a senior US defense official.
Although the official did not specify which country provided the aircraft parts, the official said Wednesday that the United States and other countries have worked to “provide them with the parts they need to fly them.”
The influx of spare parts allowed Ukraine to expand its fleet of operational military aircraft, despite the ongoing Russian invasion. The official said they have more planes now than they did three weeks ago.
A day earlier, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Ukraine had received additional combat aircraft on top of its existing numbers.
But on Wednesday, a senior defense official retracted that, saying that Ukraine had not received any more aircraft, but had in fact received aircraft parts to power more of its existing aircraft.
However, the official hinted that at least one country is considering sending more aircraft to Ukraine.
“I have learned that an offer made by another country has already been carried out,” the official said. “That show wasn’t done, so I was way ahead of where things really were.” It is not known which country made such an offer.
The United States committed to sending 16 Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine, but the administration refused to participate in the transfer of MiG-29s from another country to Ukraine via the United States.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked other countries to acquire Soviet-era MiG-29 Fulcrum combat aircraft, which Ukrainian pilots already know how to fly.
Zelensky asked other Eastern European countries with fourth-generation airframes to send them to Ukraine, but no country has yet agreed to this.
The official account of the Ukrainian Air Force on Twitter on Wednesday said, “Ukraine has not received new aircraft from partners! With the help of the US government, KpsZSU has received spare parts and components for the overhaul and repair of the aircraft fleet in the Armed Forces, which will allow to operate more equipment.”
The Ukrainian Air Force was part of its air defense network, which also includes S-300 surface-to-air missiles and portable anti-aircraft missiles. The combination of platforms prevented Russia from establishing air supremacy over Ukraine and controlling the skies.
Despite the constant bombardment from Russian missiles and artillery, as well as strikes on military bases, the Ukrainian Air Force remained largely intact, although it suffered some losses.
In early March, nearly two weeks after the war, the defense official said Ukraine had 56 combat aircraft, which make up about 80% of its fixed-wing fighters. But the official said the Ukrainians did not use their planes much, flying only 5-10 missions a day.
CNN’s Eli Kaufman contributed to this report.
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