The top U.S. general in Europe is quietly telling American lawmakers that giving Ukraine advanced Western equipment — such as F-16 fighter jets, drones, and long-range missiles — could help Kyiv rule the skies and bolster its own offensives against Russia.
In a Friday morning closed-door briefing with more than 10 senators and House members, Gen. Christopher Cavoli was asked if F-16 fighter jets would help Ukraine win the war against Russia. He responded: “Yes,” according to five people in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private session.
The F-16 question was part of a larger discussion over the conduct of the war and what Kyiv needs to succeed in its plans to go on the offensive, and blunt Russian offensives across hundreds of miles of front lines. Cavoli said Ukraine needs longer-range missiles to allow its forces to strike Russian positions from farther away, putting headquarters and rear supply lines at risk, which would help disrupt the Russian war machine inside Ukraine.
The general’s answer goes further than previous public comments by top national security officials, who have said they haven’t ruled out sending fighter jets in the future, but also note that air defenses are the most urgent current need.
Cavoli told the lawmakers at the Munich Security Conference that the U.S. and its allies should send the most advanced weapons they can part with to Ukraine. That included advanced aircraft, drones and missiles with ranges over 62 miles (100 kilometers), such as the Army Tactical Missile System. Those weapons would do a better job positioning Kyiv to repel Moscow’s troops, Cavoli said.
The general, who serves as both the supreme allied commander for Europe and as head of U.S. European Command, argued that Ukraine needs more advanced weapons and equipment to “enhance the deep fight,” per one of five people. A second person said Cavoli believes the West should equip Ukraine to “reach further” into Russian positions within Ukraine’s border.