Ukraine to station part of new F-16 fleet at allied air bases for protection from Russian strikes


Ukraine will station some of its brand-new F-16 fighter jets at the foreign air bases of its allies to protect them from Russian strikes, the Ukrainian Air Force Command's aviation chief, Serhii Holubtsov, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Four countries have already vowed to provide Ukraine with F-16s, though Holubtsov believes that number could grow, as "almost every country that has F-16s in service are gradually replacing them with F-35s."

Read also: Dutch F-16 jets bound for Ukraine can strike Russia — Defense Minister

"As for 30 planes, maybe 40. It should be understood here that not all planes transferred to Ukraine will now come to Ukraine," he said.

"Some will remain in those centers where our pilots and aviation personnel are trained. These will be the Ukrainian planes used to train our pilots."

"The should not surprise anyone."

Read also: Denmark permits Ukraine to use F-16 jets against Russian military targets

"There are a number that will go to Ukraine. Several will be stored at safe air bases, not in Ukraine, so they are not targeted here," Holubtsov said.

These planes will act as a reserve will be a reserve, if necessary "to replace faulty aircraft, during routine maintenance," he said.

"That is so we can always have a certain number of aircraft in  operational inventory that will correspond to the number of pilots we will have."

Should Ukraine train more pilots, more F-16s will be stationed at bases inside Ukraine.

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It is not known how many F-16s have or will be promised to Ukraine in the long term, and this could be an advantage, as with each aviation coalition conference, Kyiv receives "additional positive forecasts, additional real numbers, and additional information to allow us to make this process systematic," he added.

F-16 fighters for Ukraine

The Netherlands and Denmark promised in August 2023 to jointly provide Ukraine with 61 American F-16 fighter jets. This was preceded by a transfer authorization from the United States.

Read also: Ukraine to receive first F-16 jets after Easter celebrations - UA Air Force

Norway has also confirmed its intention to supply F-16s. Belgium will also provide Ukraine with F-16s, but in 2025.

The Netherlands announced its decision to begin preparations for the transfer of the first 18 aircraft to Ukraine in December, and later increased this number to 24. In total, the country has promised Kyiv 42 fighters.

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The tentative timeline for the delivery of the fighter jets to Ukraine was the first half of 2024.

Read also: Ukraine needs 120-130 F-16 jets to counter Russian air power — Zelenskyy

The first F-16s would arrive in Ukraine around June 2024, Foreign Policy reported on Feb. 18, 2024, citing European officials. Commenting on this, the then spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuriy Ihnat, noted that it was impossible to talk about specific dates for the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine by foreign partners.

The Netherlands plans to start sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in fall, Dutch Defense Minister Kees Ollongren announced on May 6. At the same time, Danish Ambassador to Kyiv Ole Egberg Mikkelsen said that planes would arrive this summer.

The first Western F-16 fighter jets would arrive in Ukraine within a few weeks, The Standard reported on May 10, citing a high-ranking military source.

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