Ukraine to Keep F-16s Abroad to Protect From Russian Strikes - M5 Dergi
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Ukraine to Keep F-16s Abroad to Protect From Russian Strikes

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Ukraine plans to store some of its F-16 fighter jets abroad to protect them from potential Russian strikes.

This is according to Ukrainian Air Force aviation chief Brigadier General Serhiy Holubtsov ahead of the much-awaited arrival of the Western warplanes later this year.

He said “a certain number” of F-16s will be stationed at secure bases outside Ukraine so Moscow is not able to target them.

These F-16s are separate from those Kyiv plans to deploy, as they can only be used to replace damaged aircraft or train more Ukrainian pilots abroad.

“This way, we can always have a certain number of aircraft in the operational fleet that corresponds to the number of pilots we have,” Holubtsov told Radio Free Europe. “If there are more pilots, there will be more aircraft in Ukraine.”

A Risky Move?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already warned that NATO facilities hosting Ukrainian weapons of war would be considered legitimate targets.

He said the F-16s are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and that countries should avoid providing bases for them if they do not want to be dragged into the conflict.

“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,” Putin said. “It poses a serious danger of NATO being further drawn into the conflict.”

Senior Russian officials are optimistic that Moscow would be able to quickly target some foreign facilities that will house the Western warplanes.

‘Not a Game-Changer’

The F-16s are expected to help Kyiv push back Russian troops from the frontlines, especially in the embattled regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk.

They could also protect Ukrainian people from Russian glide bombs, which have been inflicting significant damage in many areas, according to Holubtsov.

“I think we will succeed, first of all, in pushing back the aircraft that drop glide bombs farther from the contact line,” he said. “If we manage to push them back at least another 30-50 kilometers (19-31 miles), this can already be considered a turning point.”

But US officials have already warned that the F-16s would not be a “dramatic game-changer” for the war-torn nation.

Though they can give the Ukrainians an increment of capability, it is going to be difficult for Kyiv to operate the warplanes in areas where Moscow’s air defenses are deployed.

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