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Air Force: F-16s can't defend Ukraine this fall or winter

by Daria Bevziuk August 17, 2023 6:38 AM 2 min read
French-made Rafale fighters and a Polish Air Force US-made F-16 take part in a military parade in Warsaw on Polish Army Day, August 15, 2023. (Photo by Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images)
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Ukraine will not be able to defend its airspace with U.S. F-16 fighter jets by the coming fall or winter, spokesperson for the Air Force Yurii Ihnat said on Aug. 16.

"It is already obvious that we will not be able to defend Ukraine with F-16s this fall and winter," Ihnat said.

During the Vilnius NATO summit in July, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov announced the formation of a coalition to provide training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16s. The coalition is made up of 11 NATO member states. The program was set to start in Denmark in August, with plans for establishing a training center in Romania as well.

However, the forthcoming F-16 training has been marked by uncertainties. While the Biden administration has approved the training, it cannot give final authorization until it receives a completed training plan from European leaders.

It's also still unclear which specific countries will be supplying the F-16 jets to the Ukrainian Air Force. Gaining fluency in the English language presents another challenge  for Ukrainian pilots.  

"Significant hopes were pinned on this aircraft, anticipating its integration into the air defense system and its ability to shield us from Russia's missile and drone terrorism," Ihnat said.

Nonetheless, Ihnat said that question of training Ukrainian pilots and engineers had "moved forward."

"In the near future, our pilots will receive training within the member countries of the aviation coalition," Ihnat said.

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