US says F-16s will fly in Ukraine this summer

American-made F-16 fighter jets are on their way to Ukraine, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday, announcing the follow through of a key commitment years in the making.

Blinken, speaking at the NATO public forum, said the advanced fighter jets are expected to be defending Ukraine’s sky’s “this summer”.

Blinken did not identify the number of F-16s being sent to Ukraine from the Netherlands and Denmark. A joint statement from Washington, the Hague and Copenhagen said other details are being withheld for “operational security”.

The delivery of F-16s comes on top of President Joe Biden’s announcement that NATO allies are providing five more air defense systems to Ukraine, as the country continues to face devastating Russian missile strikes.

“Those jets will be flying in the skies of Ukraine this summer, to make sure that Ukraine can continue to effectively defend itself against the Russian aggression,” Blinken announced in a statement.

President Biden first announced in June 2023 that NATO-partners would pledge to provide F-16s to Ukraine. In May, the first Ukrainian pilots graduated from a U.S.-training program.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the announcement as bolstering Ukraine’s air defense. The urgent need for such help was underscored by a Russian missile attack on Sunday that hit a children’s hospital in Kyiv — with an estimated 300 reported injured, including four children, and two deaths, including a young doctor.

In remarks at the Reagan Foundation on Tuesday night, Zelensky stressed Ukraine needs 128 F-16s to defend against Russia’s aerial attacks.

“We need 128, this is the fleet, all these numbers our partners have,” Zelensky added.

“So till moment when we will have 128 with them in the sky — anyway it will be difficult.”

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