The main spokesperson for the Biden administration has stated that they expect US-made F-16 fighter jets to arrive in Ukraine by the end of the year, signaling increased urgency to deliver the aircraft.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has persistently sought modern fighter aircraft to strengthen its defense against invading Russian forces.

Kyiv’s ground forces face difficulties advancing their counteroffensive due to Russia’s air superiority, which slows them down and makes their advance difficult.

Until now, the US was hesitant to approve to transfer these modern fighter jets to Ukraine.

However, in recent days there have been indications that the country has accelerated the process of supplying F-16s to Ukraine in response to Kyiv’s request for additional military assistance.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced yesterday, July 21, that the US is “moving quickly” to deliver F-16s to Ukraine, stating during the Aspen Security Forum that “they are going to push as quickly as possible.”

Similarly, John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, told Fox News on July 20 that the F-16s are expected to arrive in Ukraine by the end of the year but stressed that the administration does not believe that the F-16s alone will be enough to change the situation decisively.

In May, President Joe Biden expanded US support for an international initiative focused on training Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16s; however, formal approval of the training program, required by export restrictions, is still pending at present.

F-16 fighters to Ukraine by year-end

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov revealed in a recent tweet that Ukraine and 11 other nations had finalized a comprehensive strategy to provide training for pilots, maintenance technicians and support personnel to operate F-16s effectively.

The 11-nation coalition, led by Denmark and the Netherlands, has initiated steps to bring the training program to fruition. European officials recently declared their goal to start training in Denmark in August and to set up a training center in Romania.

Additionally, the UK is preparing to provide English-language instruction to Ukrainian pilots in the near future.

These collaborative efforts are aimed at equipping Ukraine with the necessary skills and support to operate US-built F-16s effectively and increase its defense capabilities amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.

F-16 delivery to Ukraine remains uncertain

The US-built F-16 comes equipped with a range of advanced capabilities and is compatible with most NATO weapons supplied to Ukraine.

Despite originally being produced in the 1980s, the F-16 aircraft hasn’t stuck around; rather, it has seen numerous upgrades and advancements that have pushed its performance and versatility to extraordinary heights, surpassing any fighter currently in the Ukrainian fleet.

These continuous improvements have transformed the F-16 into a highly advanced and capable machine, cementing its position as a formidable asset and potent force on the modern battlefield.

US defense company Lockheed Martin is the aircraft manufacturer, and according to Ukrainian media reports, the company plans to oversee pilot training for the Ukrainian Air Force through private contract air services specialist Draken International.

Despite training efforts, countries have been reluctant to commit to deploying their F-16s to the battlefield once training is complete.

For example, Norway declared its support for training initiatives to allow Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets. However, they have not announced the possibility of providing Ukraine with any of their own F-16 jets.

It was previously reported that none of NATO’s European allies had offered to deliver F-16 Fighting Falcons to Ukraine for the time being.

The UK, which does not operate F-16s, strongly supports arming Ukraine with these aircraft, but all European countries are waiting for the US to take the lead on the matter.

Recent statements by US officials did not specify which countries would send their F-16s to Ukraine, leaving the question of providing these fighter jets uncertain and without precise details.

Furthermore, Kirby’s timeline indicates a faster pace of delivery than Ukrainian officials had anticipated. On July 12, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, expressed his belief that Ukraine could receive its first F-16 fighter jets by the end of March 2024.