Ukraine To Keep Many F-16 Jets Abroad On Fears Russia Will Immediately Destroy

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024 - 08:15 AM

Ukraine's armed forces are expected to begin receiving the first of dozens of F-16 fighter jets within weeks. In total over 60 are expected to arrive from Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands - at a moment Ukrainian pilots are still undergoing lengthy and highly technical training programs in the Europe and the United States.

But decision-makers in Brussels and Kiev already fear that they will make for highly attractive targets for Russian long-range and aerial strikes before they ever see aerial combat in Ukraine's skies.

"Ukraine may keep some of the F-16 fighter jets it’s set to receive from its Western allies at foreign bases to protect them from Russian strikes," a senior Ukrainian military officer was cited in the Associated Press as saying Monday. Likely the jets will be "hidden" hosted at bases in Romania and Poland, which are both NATO countries.

Anadolu Agency

Serhii Holubtsov, who is head of aviation for Ukraine's air force, confirmed that "a certain number of aircraft will be stored at secure air bases outside of Ukraine so that they are not targeted here."

He described that warplanes kept outside of Ukraine can be used for further training of Ukrainian pilots, and can be held in reserve in instances where jets actively engaged in combat have to be grounded for repairs.

"This way, we can always have a certain number of aircraft in the operational fleet that corresponds to the number of pilots we have," he said. "If there are more pilots, there will be more aircraft in Ukraine."

But we might ask: what's the point? Zelensky has since the start of the war been begging the West to "close the skies". The F-16s were pledged toward that end (as a 'compromise' short of the West directly setting up a NFZ), but they haven't even arrived yet and Kiev is essentially going to hide many of the expensive aircraft from the start.

It was once thought that US-made fighter jets could be used for Ukrainian forces to go on the offensive against entrenched Russian front lines, but that doesn't look like it's going to the case.

Stationing the transferred warplanes at airfields outside Ukraine also increases the chances of Moscow stumbling into a direct shooting war with NATO. Kremlin officials, including President Putin himself, have long warned Russia will strike airbases from which attacks against Russian forces are launched, even if outside of Ukraine's borders.

Last year Putin began warning of Western aircraft, "If they are stationed at air bases outside the Ukrainian borders and used in combat, we will have to see how and where to strike the assets used in combat against us."

He underscored that this "poses a serious danger of NATO being further drawn into the conflict" - and has also highlighted that the F-16s are capable of carrying tactical nukes. Thus, he said at the time, both the planes and foreign host bases themselves of necessity become a "legitimate target"