The Ukrainian Air Force added about 20 more operational aircraft to its fleet due to an influx of spare parts, according to a senior US defense official.
Although the official did not specify which country provided the parts for the planes, the official said Wednesday that the United States and other countries worked “to get the parts they need to get them in the air.”
The flow of spare parts has allowed Ukraine to expand its fleet of operational military aircraft, despite Russia’s ongoing invasion. They have more planes now than they did three weeks ago, the official said.
A day earlier, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Ukraine had received additional fighter jets to add to its existing numbers.
But on Wednesday, the senior defense official backed down, saying Ukraine had not received more planes, but had in fact received plane parts to make its existing planes more functional.
Still, the official hinted that at least one country was considering sending more planes to Ukraine.
“They gave me to understand that an offer had indeed been made from another country,” the official said. “That offer hasn’t been made, so I got ahead of where things really were.” It is not known which country has made such an offer.
The United States has promised to send Ukraine 16 Mi-17 helicopters, but the administration has refused to get involved in a transfer of Mig-29s from another country to Ukraine via the United States.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked other countries for Soviet-era Mig-29 Fulcrum fighter jets, which Ukrainian pilots already know how to fly.
Zelensky has asked other Eastern European countries with fourth-generation airframes to ship them to Ukraine, but no country has yet agreed to do so.
On Wednesday, the official Twitter account of the Ukrainian Air Force said: “Ukraine did not receive new aircraft from partners! With the assistance of the US Government, @KpsZSU received spare parts and components for the restoration and repair of the Armed Forces aircraft fleet, which will allow more equipment to be put into service.”
The Ukrainian Air Force has been part of its air defense network, which also includes S-300 surface-to-air missiles and man-portable anti-aircraft missiles. The combination of platforms has prevented Russia from establishing air superiority over Ukraine and controlling the skies.
Despite constant Russian missile and artillery bombardment, as well as attacks on military bases, the Ukrainian Air Force has remained largely intact, although it has suffered some losses.
In early March, about two weeks after the start of the war, the defense official said that Ukraine has 56 fighter jets, comprising about 80% of its fixed-wing fighters. But the Ukrainians did not use their aircraft much, flying only 5 to 10 missions a day, the official said.
CNN’s Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.