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11 Mar, 2024 14:36

NATO states will break F-16 pledge to Ukraine – NYT

Kiev will only receive six out of the 45 fighter jets promised by the end of spring, the paper reports
NATO states will break F-16 pledge to Ukraine – NYT

NATO member states will not be able to fulfill their pledge to send 45 F-16s to Ukraine, as the bloc’s drive to provide Kiev with US-designed fighter jets is marred by “confusion and chaos,” the New York Times has reported.

The administration of US President Joe Biden allowed America’s European allies to arm the Ukrainian military with fourth generation F-16 aircraft last spring, with Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium jointly vowing to supply 45 planes.

However, only the Danish authorities have so far announced a timeline for the arrival of the jets in Ukraine, the NYT said in an article on Monday. Copenhagen says Kiev will receive six F16s in late spring, with another 13 coming later in the year and in 2025.

But even if Ukraine receives all 45 promised aircraft, it still does not have nearly enough pilots to fly them, the NYT noted.

Currently, only 12 Ukrainian airmen are expected to be ready to operate the US-designed aircraft in combat by summer, it said.

According to the paper, the pilots, who are accustomed to flying Soviet-era warplanes, have been trained at “lightning speed” in Denmark, the US, and UK over the past ten months.

Their training was complicated by the fact that they had to learn not just NATO’s flying techniques and tactics, but also English, it said.

The need to refurbish Ukraine’s “aging and war-damaged” airfields so that they are able to accommodate the F-16s is another problem that could delay the entry of the aircraft into battle, the NYT noted.

In an article last week, Politico warned that operating the F-16s will be difficult for Kiev. The planes and their bases will be prime targets for Russian forces, the outlet said, adding that unprepared runways could “sabotage the delicate aircraft,” and repairing the F-16 is a challenging task.

Russian Senator Aleksey Pushkov, who previously served as the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma, said in late February that “the F-16 will not change the course of fighting or the overall balance of forces [in the conflict between Moscow and Kiev]. But the risk of a direct clash between Russia and NATO is increasing.”

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the F-16s will “burn” once they are delivered to Ukraine, just like the Leopard-2 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and other Western-made weapons that have been supplied to Kiev.

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