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Ukraine wants more Western jets, not just F-16s – Kiev

F-16 fighter jets promised to Ukraine by its Western backers are not the only military aircraft that Kiev wants, Ukrainian Air Force Command spokesman Yury Ignat said on Tuesday.

“Ukraine considers and will consider other aircraft types that could enhance combat capabilities,” Ignat told national broadcasters when asked about Kiev potentially acquiring American-made F/A-18 Hornets from Australia.

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However, Ukraine cannot exert too much pressure on the US and its allies as it depends on Western aid, he admitted.

Ignat said the US-made F/A-18 and F-15, as well as the Eurofighter Typhoon, have a greater range and can carry more weapons. Nonetheless, he stated that Kiev would still focus on acquiring F-16s first, adding that Ukrainian pilots could learn to fly them sooner.

Ukrainian pilots have still not started their F-16 training, the spokesman said, adding that officials in Kiev are “working on the issue every day” by examining bases that are due to serve as training hubs. “The process has been launched,” he told broadcasters, but noted that it has thus far only amounted to “planning.” 

Kiev will not receive F-16s until the training of pilots and maintenance crews is completed and the relevant infrastructure is prepared, Ignat said, adding that “handing over [the jets] is impossible for now, it will require time.” 

“We cannot put pressure on our partners, because we depend on their aid,” Ignat stated. None of Ukraine’s foreign backers have spoken about supplying Kiev with Western-made fighter jets other than the F-16 so far.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has criticized Kiev’s backers for what he described as a failure to launch the F-16 training program in time. He did not name the specific nations that had promised to start the training in June, but argued that the pledge itself had been “miscalculated.” 

“We’re now working with all the parties involved… to speed this process up as much as possible,” Kuleba said.

Russia has repeatedly warned that deliveries of increasingly more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine by the US and its allies only prolongs the conflict and could lead to a major escalation. In late May, Bloomberg reported that F-16s would not be a game changer since they have inferior capabilities compared to many of Russia’s modern military aircraft.

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