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Portugal rules out sending F-16s, open to training Ukrainian pilots
Portuguese Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho has ruled out providing Ukraine with F-16s but said his country is ready to train Ukrainian pilots, the newspaper Diário de Notícias reported on May 22.
"We have very good pilots and trainers, and they are available to work with colleagues from other countries who also have F-16s to train Ukrainian pilots," Cravinho said, as quoted by Diário de Notícias.
According to Cravinho, supplying Ukraine with F-16s is currently not an option because "Portugal does not have an unlimited number of planes."
However, Cravinho hinted that Portugal might be open to requests from the Ukrainians with regard to parts for maintaining aircraft, Diário de Notícias wrote.
The U.K. and the Netherlands agreed on May 17 to build a “fighter jet coalition" for Ukraine. On May 20, the U.S. also declared that it would join the initiative, as did Portugal and Denmark.
So far, Ukraine has received 14 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland and 13 from Slovakia.
Ukraine has shown the most interest in the U.S.-built F-16, which has been in service since the 1970s and operated by over 20 nations.
Critics argue that allies' reluctance to supply Western fighter jets and long-range missiles to Ukraine may prolong Russia’s war of aggression and result in thousands of deaths.