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Media: Zelensky says Ukraine needs 160 F-16 fighter jets

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 31, 2023 6:25 PM 2 min read
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (not seen) and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hold a joint press conference after signing an agreement at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, on Aug. 21, 2023. (Costas Baltas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Kyiv has agreed with allies on the supply of 50-60 U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview published on Aug. 30.

However, Ukraine needs around 160 planes "to have a powerful air force that prevents Russia from dominating the airspace," Zelensky told the Portuguese public broadcaster RTP.

Zelensky said that F-16s are needed not for Ukraine's ongoing counteroffensive but to protect civilians and humanitarian corridors in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Kuleba: F-16 jets will enable Ukraine to protect grain corridor
Ukraine could use F-16 fighter jets to protect grain shipping lanes in the Black Sea, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told France 24 on July 25.

"We are fighting with Russia for our Ukrainian land, against Russia's invasive policy. We need fighter jets merely to defend ourselves. To defend our land, our sea, our sky", the president added in the interview.

According to RTP, Zelensky expects the fighter jets to operate in the Ukrainian sky at the beginning of the next year, recognizing that the process is complex as it requires training of pilots, engineers, and specialized maintenance.

On Aug. 21, Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said that Ukraine needed 128 modern fighter jets to fully replace the old aircraft fleet. According to Ihnat, F-16 aircraft can change the course of events in Russia's war against Ukraine, providing Ukrainian troops with much-needed air superiority in occupied territories.

So far, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway have pledged to provide dozens of their own F-16s to bolster the Ukrainian Air Force.

Ukrainian pilots, engineers, and technicians have already started a six-month training session on F-16s in Denmark. Greece, Portugal, and the U.S. have also pledged to join the training efforts.

Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told European Pravda in an interview on Aug. 25 that the delivery of F-16s to Ukraine could take anywhere from six to eight months due to prerequisites that must be met before the jets arrive.

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