Ukraine could field F-16 fighter jets at the end of the spring of 2024 in the "best-case scenario," Oleksandra Ustinova, head of the Holos (Voice) parliamentary faction, said in an interview with European Pravda published on Nov. 22.
First Ukrainian pilots are expected to complete their F-16 training by the end of 2023, but these numbers would not be sufficient, and most aviators are still learning, said Ustinova, who has actively lobbied for Ukraine aid in the U.S.
Ukraine is also trying to have the pledged F-16s modernized, mainly in terms of their weaponry and radars.
"After all, giving us aircraft with a radar range of 60 kilometers like a MiG does not make sense," Ustinova said.
"Therefore, international partners and our Defense Ministry are actively working on this issue. If we achieve this, it could become one of the game-changers of the next year."
Modernized F-16 jets could allow the Ukrainian military to detect Russian planes carrying KAB bombs, the lawmaker said. Russia regularly uses this weaponry in air raids against Ukrainian civilian targets, particularly in Kherson Oblast.
A coalition of international partners officially formed in July agreed to assist Ukraine with training its pilots on F-16 fighter jets. Lessons for Ukrainian aviators are underway in Denmark and the U.S., and a training center was recently opened in Romania.
The Washington Post reported that according to official estimates, Ukrainian pilots would be ready to fly F-16s no earlier than summer 2024.