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Reznikov: At least 6-7 months before Ukraine obtains F-16s

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 22, 2023 3:01 PM 2 min read
US soldiers inspect F-16 fighter jets during an air force joint military exercise in the Philippines on May 9. (Photo credit: AFP via Getty Images)
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Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Aug. 22 that it will take at least six to seven months for Ukrainian staff and infrastructure to receive F-16 fighter jets pledged by Western allies.

Reznikov reminded that the planes themselves are simply a platform and that munitions and infrastructure needed to operate them must be also taken into account.

This means that it is necessary to train not only pilots but also engineers and technicians, he commented.

"This is a serious set of tasks and we have to train several hundred people to put the first birds in the Ukrainian sky," Reznikov said. The minister noted that Ukrainian pilots have already demonstrated the ability to complete their training within six months, but the timeframe for the technical staff is still unknown.

"Objectively, without exaggerated expectations... I think that six to seven months is the minimal period that should be seriously taken into account," Reznikov said, adding that he will not be disappointed if it takes even slightly longer.

The minister emphasized that Ukrainian military staff have already exceeded expectations concerning their ability to learn to use Western hardware. For example, it took them only 10 weeks to be able to use Patriot air defense systems instead of 10 ten months, and three weeks to use Western 155mm artillery rather than three months, he said.

After months of protracted discussions, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov confirmed on Aug. 19 that the first Ukrainian pilots, engineers, and technicians have started their training on F-16s.

At the same time, Denmark and the Netherlands announced that they will provide the F-16 fighter jets from their own stocks to Ukrainian forces. Upon meeting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine will receive 42 F-16s in a "breakthrough agreement."

The Danish prime minister also announced the provision of 19 F-16 fighter jets, with the first batch of six planes expected to arrive around to the New Year.

The transfer of U.S.-made F-16s will have to receive final approval by Washington. The White House said that it will greenlight third countries to provide the jets once the training of Ukrainian pilots is complete.

The training was previously announced to kick off in Denmark in late August, in partnership with the 11 nations included in the "fighter jet coalition." Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that some 70 Ukrainian pilots are currently preparing to start their training program in Denmark.

Pentagon: US ready to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s if Europe lacks capacity
The U.S. is willing to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets if European partners do not have enough capacity to train as many as Kyiv wants, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said on Aug. 21.
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