Ukraine will struggle to operate both US-made and Soviet-era warplanes, the Air Force spokesman has said
Ukraine will encounter difficulties maintaining the US-made F-16 fighter jets scheduled to arrive in the country later this year, a spokesman for the Air Force has acknowledged.
Speaking on national TV on Saturday, Yury Ignat said he was sure that Kiev would eventually switch from Soviet-era jets to Western warplanes, including F-16s and also the Swedish-made Gripen. Stockholm earlier said deliveries were possible, but that it would first have to be accepted into NATO.
However, according to the official, until the Ukrainian military transitions to new aircraft, it will face serious infrastructure challenges as it tries to maintain several types of jet simultaneously – even though infrastructure for NATO aircraft is relatively standardized.
“Different countries have one, or at most two types of planes. As of today, we have four types of Soviet-era planes. We want to take on the Western F-16s and more… It will be extremely difficult to maintain and operate different types of aircraft,” Ignat said.
Western countries announced the creation of a coalition to help Ukraine procure F-16 fighter jets and train its pilots to fly the advanced warplanes last year, with Kiev officials expecting the first deliveries in 2024. The Netherlands and Denmark have spearheaded the effort, promising to donate up to 61 planes of this type.
However, the Danish newspaper Berlingske reported earlier this month that the delivery of F-16s by Copenhagen would be delayed by up to six months. At the time, Ignat cautioned against making a “disaster” out of the report, urging the public to rely on official statements.
Russia, which has repeatedly condemned Western arms shipments to Ukraine, has warned that aircraft deliveries will not help Kiev drastically change the situation on the frontline, while vowing to destroy F-16s along with other foreign-supplied equipment.
In July, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the upcoming deliveries a “dangerous development,” recalling that some modifications of the F-16 can carry nuclear weapons.
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