Saturday, May 25, 2024

Ukrainian official says F-16s could arrive in Kiev this month

US-made F-16 fighter jets could start arriving in Ukraine as early as this month, a senior Ukrainian military official has stated.

Speaking on national TV on Wednesday, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Ilya Evlash predicted that Kiev could receive the first batch of the advanced jets after Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated on May 5 this year.

Still, he cautioned against getting hopes up.

“We are not guessing the future, because the date has been changed several times. That’s why we are waiting,” Evlash added.

The official stressed that the timeline for F-16 deliveries is out of Ukraine’s hands, and that Kiev’s military “will work with what it is given to it”.

Later, in an interview with the newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda, Evlash elaborated that “‘after Easter’ is a drawn-out notion”, noting that Kiev would like to get the warplanes as soon as possible and vowing to make an announcement once they arrive. He added that Ukrainian pilots are currently training to fly the jets in Denmark and the US.

In March, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said that the first batch of F-16 fighter jets would arrive in Ukraine from Denmark this summer. This timeline was also confirmed by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, who nevertheless acknowledged that more training is needed both for pilots and ground personnel.

Ukrainian officials have admitted that operating F-16s will be fraught with serious practical difficulties. Last month, Evlash stated that building bunkers for the jets will require “colossal funds”, adding that Kiev would try to use other methods to protect the aircraft from strikes, including dispersing them among different airfields.

Last year, Western countries announced an international coalition to help Ukraine procure the US-designed F-16s, with plans to provide Kiev with several dozen aircraft.

However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last autumn that while the F-16s would certainly boost Ukraine’s military capabilities, they would not be “a silver bullet” capable of drastically changing the situation on the battlefield.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stressed that F-16s will not change the outcome of the conflict, promising that the Russian military will destroy the planes as it has other Ukrainian hardware.

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