Fighter jets: how many does the UK have compared to Ukraine, Russia and US - why does Zelensky want them?

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
President Volodymyr Zelensky has been making attempts to equip Ukraine with fighter jets

President Volodymyr Zelensky has continued to make pleas for the West to send Ukraine fighter jets.

The Ukrainian leader spoke of the issue once again while he visited the UK parliament. In an address to the crowd gathered inside Westminster Hall, Zelensky said that Ukraine was needing the “wings for freedom” in its fight against Russia.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: “I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words, combat aircraft for Ukraine. Wings for freedom.”

Boris Johnson previously said that the West should be sending the jets to Ukraine while he was on a visit to Washington DC. The calls have so far been resisted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his defence secretary Ben Wallace under the reasoning that pilots are normally given at least five years training of the particular aircraft before being able to fully use them.

The call comes after the UK was joined in its commitment to sending tanks to Ukraine. The US and Germany conceded to the plea eventually, after holding out on committing the equipment to Zelensky and his troops.

But how many fighter jets do each country have, why is Zelensky needed them - and will Sunak change his mind? Here’s everything you need to know.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

How many fighter jets do the UK have?

The RAF currently holds two types of fighter jets. This includes the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning.

There are 130 Typhoon jets held in the UK, with 101 actively being used. There are 30 F-35B Lightning jets, with 29 of these active. Therefore, the RAF currently has 130 active jets.

However, numbers could be set to increase. The UK made an order for 40 more F-35B Lightning aircrafts last year, meaning that the fleet of these American-made jets will more than double once the order is fulfilled. In comparison, Russia currently holds at least 188 fighter jets.

The UK currently has 101 active Typhoon jets. (Credit: Getty Images)The UK currently has 101 active Typhoon jets. (Credit: Getty Images)
The UK currently has 101 active Typhoon jets. (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Why does Zelensky want fighter jets?

The war in Ukraine has seen Ukrainian forces face Russian troops with equipment which is often aging and Soviet-era. This, combined with the powerful aerial weapons being deployed by Russia, means that Ukraine has been issuing pleas to its Western allies for more powerful and more up-to-date technology to deal with the attacks.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This was one of the reasons given by Zelensky when Ukraine was lobbying for tanks, a plea which was eventually heard by the UK, US and Germany. An allocation of Leopard 2, Challenger 2 and M1 Abrams tanks will be sent to help keep Russian forces at bay.

Will the UK send fighter jets to Ukraine?

Following his speech at parliament, Zelensky and Sunak held a join press conference in which they spoke about the issue. The Ukrainian president has not left the UK with a promise of any allocation of fighter jets, but Sunak told reporters that “nothing was off the table” in the future.

He said: “When it comes to fighter combat aircraft, of course [allies] are part of the conversation — indeed, we have been discussing that today and have been previously. That’s why we have announced today that we will be training Ukrainian airforce on Nato-standard platforms, because the first step in being able to provide advanced aircrafts is to have soldiers or aviators who are capable of using them.

That is a process that takes some time. We’ve started that process today, that’s because we are keen to support the president and his country in delivering a victory.

“And nothing is off the table and our leadership on this issue is something we all collectively should be very proud of.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.