Some of Ukraine’s F-16s will be based in neighboring countries

Moscow has already warned that storing F-16s in neighboring countries could make these bases legitimate targets

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, a pilot, left, and Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte pose in front of an F-16 fighter jet in Eindhoven. Netherlands, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

A number of Western F-16s that Ukraine will receive from its allies will be deployed to foreign bases, as there are fears that the Russians would immediately destroy them if they were stored on Ukrainian soil.

While these fighter jets are stored in neighboring countries, Ukrainian pilots will continue to train on them, according to Serhi Glubtsov, head of aviation at the Ukrainian Air Force Command, in an interview with Radio Liberty.

According to him, four countries have so far confirmed their readiness to supply the planes, but the number could increase as states gradually shift their fleets from F-16s to F-35s.

“Some of the supplied fighter jets will stay where pilots and air personnel are trained. There are a number of planes that will come to Ukraine, and others will be stored in secure air bases abroad so that they do not become targets here,” the Ukrainian official said.

F-16 fighter jets and military airfields outside Ukraine where they will be based will become legitimate targets for Moscow if they take part in combat missions against Russian forces in Ukraine, state news agency RIA Novosti reported on Monday, citing senior MP Andrei Kartapolov. The quoted MP is head of the defense committee in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

“If they are used according to their direct destination, then they will not be legitimate targets, but if they are used in combat missions, then aircraft, including airfields that will serve as bases for the F-16s become legitimate targets, with all the consequences that follow,” said Kartapolov, a retired general.

The head of the Russian delegation to the Vienna talks on military security and arms control, Konstantin Gavrilov, said in an interview with Izvestia on June 4 that Russia would shoot down F-16 fighter jets when if appeared in Kyiv’s arsenal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on March 28 that the delivery of F-16s to Ukraine would not change the situation on the battlefield. These planes will also be a legitimate target for the Russian Federation even if they take off from third countries, Putin said at the time, Izvestia notes.

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