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Ukraine to seek secure parking for F-16s abroad | Russia-Ukraine war News

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Kyiv expects first donated fighter jets will arrive later this year, but plans to keep some outside the country.

Anticipating deliveries of US-made F16s from European allies, Ukraine has plans to store some of the fighter jets at bases abroad due to security concerns.

A senior Ukrainian air force commander said in comments published late on Sunday that some of the F-16s set to be delivered by European allies for the war with Russia will be held at foreign bases while military personnel train to use them.

“There is a number that will go to Ukraine. There are a certain number of aircraft that will be stored at secure airbases, outside of Ukraine, so that they are not targeted here,” said Serhii Holubtsov, head of aviation at the air force command of the armed forces of Ukraine, in an interview with the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published on Sunday.

Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway have committed to providing Ukraine with more than 60 multipurpose fighter aircraft, but it could take several years before all are delivered.

The first of the aircraft are expected to be delivered later this year, and Ukrainian pilots are currently undergoing training by Western allies to fly the warplanes.

The planes that are held back will “remain in those centres where our pilots and aviation personnel are trained”, Holubtsov continued. “This will be our reserve in case of need for replacement of faulty planes during routine maintenance.”

Ukrainian pilots have been “impressed” with the aircraft, the official said, noting they have been able to detect drones and other aircraft, which can be targeted with the air-to-air missiles onboard, complementing the F-16’s air-to-ground assault capabilities.

The commander said the Ukrainian military “fully understands that it will be difficult to gain air superiority with one type of aircraft” but that it believes it can use the F-16s to drive away Russian aircraft that drop precision-guided bombs from high altitudes.

“If we deal with these planes, I think the next step will be to hunt for cover planes, for the Su-35. If we manage to drive them away at least 30-50km away, it can be considered a turning point and an achievement, if not of superiority, then parity in the airspace.”

Russian troops have continued in recent months to push inside Ukrainian-held territory, including near its second-largest city of Kharkiv, and have also maintained aerial attacks, including on energy infrastructure.

The decision by the US and NATO allies to send the F-16s has been part of the Western response, which has also included allowing Ukraine to use the weapons it receives to carry out attacks inside Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that the F-16s would be considered a “legitimate target” and that the Kremlin will take into consideration the fact that they can carry nuclear weapons.

Ukraine said on Sunday that it had struck a Sukhoi Su-57, the latest-generation Russian fighter jet, as it sat on the ground at the Akhtubinsk airfield, 589km (366 miles) from the front lines in Ukraine.

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