Some Ukrainian F-16s to be stationed abroad to avoid Russian strikes, Air Force confirms

According to Brigadier General Serhii Holubtsov, at least two Patriot and NASAMS batteries, along with close-range defense systems such as Gepard anti-aircraft gun systems, are needed to cover the airbases in Ukraine where the F-16s will be stationed.

Some of the F-16 fighters that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will receive as part of defense aid from partners will be stored at foreign airbases. These measures are aimed at protecting the aircraft from potential Russian strikes, said the head of aviation of the Ukrainian Air Force Command, Serhii Holubtsov, in an interview with Radio Svoboda.

He noted that Ukraine currently has confirmation from four countries about providing F-16s. However, Holubtsov believes that the number of fighters could increase, as "almost all countries that have F-16s in service are gradually rearming to F-35s." According to him, these aircraft will be offered to Ukraine.

At the same time, the brigadier general warned that not all of the aircraft currently promised by partners will be delivered directly to Ukraine.

"Some of them will remain at the centres where our pilots and aviation personnel are being trained. These will be Ukrainian aircraft used to train our pilots. Therefore, the number shouldn’t surprise anyone," Holubtsov said.

The head of the Ukrainian Air Force Command added that "there is a specific number that will enter Ukraine."

"There is a certain number of aircraft that will be stored at secure airbases outside of Ukraine so that they don't become targets here. This will be our reserve in case it's necessary to replace faulty aircraft or during scheduled maintenance. Basically, we'll be able to always have a certain number of operational aircraft that matches the number of pilots we have. More pilots will mean more aircraft in Ukraine," he explained.

Holubtsov mentioned that Ukraine has a "certain number" of prepared airfields and knows the number of planes that will arrive by the end of this year. However, it's not yet known how many F-16s will be promised to Kyiv in the more distant future. According to him, this could be "positive," as each conference of aviation coalition members provides Kyiv with "more positive forecasts, more realistic numbers, and more information that allows us to make this process systematic."

The brigadier general added that airfields currently housing aviation equipment are almost nightly under attack by dozens of drones. In addition, the enemy directs cruise missiles there. He assured that there are means to counter these attacks, except for a lack of missiles.

"Concerning the deployment of modern aircraft that we are expecting as part of material-technical assistance, they will undoubtedly be targets. These will be very significant targets for the Russians, who will attempt to attack them and then publicise their efforts. They might say something like, 'Look, they haven't even done anything yet, and we're already destroying them,'" Holubtsov said.

According to him, to cover the airbases where F-16s will be stationed, at least two Patriot batteries, two NASAMS batteries, and close-range defense systems such as Gepard anti-aircraft gun systems are needed.

It should be noted that the British newspaper Evening Standard reported on May 10 that the first F-16 fighters would arrive in Ukraine in June-July.

On May 31, military expert Ihor Romanenko suggested that Kyiv could place F-16s at ally airfields or in western regions.

  War in Ukraine, F-16