Ukraine’s air force may keep some F-16 warplanes abroad

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Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, (right), and Belgium’s Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder, (left), pose with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in front of an F-16 at Melsbroek military airport in Brussels, on May 28. (AP)

KYIV, Ukraine, June 10, (AP): 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 said Monday.
Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway have committed to providing Ukraine with over 60 US-made F-16 fighter jets to help it fend off Russian attacks. Ukrainian pilots are currently undergoing training to fly the warplanes ahead of the deliveries expected to start later this year.
Serhii Holubtsov, head of aviation within Ukraine’s air force, said that “a certain number of aircraft will be stored at secure air bases outside of Ukraine so that they are not targeted here.”
Holubtsov told the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that those F-16s could be used to replace damaged aircraft as they undergo repairs as well as for training 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,” he said. “If there are more pilots, there will be more aircraft in Ukraine.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow could consider launching strikes at facilities in NATO countries if they host the warplanes used in Ukraine.
“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 last year. “It poses a serious danger of NATO being further drawn into the conflict.”
In March, the Russian leader again warned Ukraine’s Western allies against providing air bases from where the F-16s could launch sorties against the Kremlin’s forces. Those bases would become a “legitimate target,” he said.

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