Transfer of F-16s to Ukraine possible but not now - Pentagon chief
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin did not rule out the possible transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but cautioned this would not happen at the current phase of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine.
According to Mr Austin, should the decision be taken, the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine would take about 18 months – something that is unlikely to help Ukraine’s Armed Forces at the moment.
"Can Ukrainians get such capabilities at some point in the future? We all think so. It could be F-16 fighters or other fourth-generation aircraft," the Pentagon chief was quoted as saying by Ukrinform news agency.
Mr Austin said that Ukraine’s most pressing needs are air defence capabilities, as well as long-range weapons and armoured vehicles, which he believes can change the situation on the battlefield in the near future.
Ukraine has long been pushing for being sent fighter jets, claiming that its current Soviet-era aircraft are not capable of countering offensives of Russian forces and are too old to be combat-effective.
While such deliberations are known to be taking place, no country has so far committed to delivering Ukraine modern aircraft.