F-16 fighter jets would be a game changer in the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force Command, Yury Ignat, claimed in remarks to Ukraine’s Espreso TV on Saturday.
“When [we] have F-16, we will win this war,” Ignat said, adding that Kiev has repeatedly told its Western backers that the air defense systems it has already obtained from the West are insufficient to protect all of Ukraine against Russian air strikes.
“The territory of the country and the length of the state border are big and the frontline… is over 2,500 kilometers long,” the Air Force spokesman said, counting Ukraine’s border with Belarus, its Black Sea shores, and the border with Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria as parts of the frontline.
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It would be impossible to cover such an expanse with air defense systems, Ignat said, adding that the US-made F-16 fighter jets would become “a part of the air defenses” and would be used in areas not covered by the ground-based systems.
The Air Force spokesman also said the Soviet-made jets that Ukraine has been using cannot effectively counter Russian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and cruise missiles. He added that Kiev also plans to use the US-made jets in offensive operations and that the aircraft would significantly increase the effectiveness of anti-radar HARM missiles and JDAM precision-guided munitions, which Western nations have already given Ukraine.
Ukraine would also use F-16s to strike the command centers and logistical networks of the Russian forces, Ignat said, adding that this would allow Kiev to quickly seize territories that it considers occupied by Russia.
His words came just days after Washington said it would support a joint program to train Ukrainian pilots on modern jets such as F-16s and would allow allies to transfer the US-made aircraft to Kiev.
On Saturday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told journalists that President Joe Biden had “informed his G7 counterparts” that Washington would let its Western allies supply advanced jets to Ukraine.
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Moscow blasted the decision as a “movement up the escalation ladder” that is “fraught with colossal risks” for the West itself.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the US of “waging a hybrid war against the entire region” and of using Ukraine to achieve its own goals.