A Ukrainian official said Wednesday that Kyiv has given up hope that it will be able to use US-made F-16 fighter jets this year as the training process is facing delays.
“It’s already obvious we won’t be able to defend Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets during this autumn and winter,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said. “We had big hopes for this plane, that it will become part of air defense, able to protect us from Russia’s missiles and drones terrorism.”
President Biden gave the green light for European countries to deliver F-16s to Ukraine in the spring, but the training process has barely begun. According to The Washington Post, the first batch of Ukrainian pilots won’t finish their training until at least next summer.
Just six pilots are taking part in the first round of training, which involves four months of English classes in Britain, then six months of combat training that will start in January. Another batch of pilots are expected to complete their training six months after the initial class.
Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny has been complaining that NATO countries would never try to launch a counteroffensive like Ukraine’s without air superiority and has been demanding F-16s. The Post reported in July that US officials privately believe Western jets wouldn’t make much of a difference in the current fight due to Russia’s extensive air defenses.
Russia has warned strongly against the provision of F-16s to Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has noted they’re capable of carrying nuclear weapons and has said Moscow will view the jets as a nuclear threat.