Ukraine to have right to use F-16s to hit valid targets in Russia, says NATO chief
Jens Stoltenberg (Photo: EPA/RONALD WITTEK)

Ukraine will have the right to strike military targets on Russian territory when it receives F-16 fighter jets, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with Radio Liberty's European service.

When asked when Ukraine will be able to deploy its planes, Stoltenberg said "it was not possible to say."

All allies of Ukraine want this to happen as soon as possible, he stressed. At the same time, the NATO chief believes, the effect of the F-16 will be stronger if the pilots are well trained, and the maintenance crews and other support personnel are well prepared.

"So, I think we have to listen to the military experts exactly when we will be ready to or when allies will be ready to start sending and delivering the F-16s <...> The sooner the better," Stoltenberg said.

Each Western ally will decide for itself whether to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine, as they all have different policies. At the same time, Russia's war against Ukraine is an act of aggression, and Ukraine has the right to self-defense, including striking legitimate Russian military targets outside Ukraine, Stoltenberg believes.

In a comment to, the spokesman of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Yuriy Ihnat, did not directly confirm permission to strike over Russian territory with F-16s, but noted that "everything changes with time."

In February, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, expressed hope that F-16 fighters would appear in Ukrainian skies as early as spring 2024.

On December 26, the first group of six Ukrainian pilots completed English language courses in Britain and began learning to fly F-16 fighter jets in Denmark.

On January 5, 2024, it was reported that Belgium plans to send two F-16 fighter jets to Denmark and about 50 personnel between March and September 2024 to train Ukrainian pilots further.

On February 15, the spokesman of the Ministry of Defense Illarion Pavlyuk stated that the issue of F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine was not discussed at the 19th meeting in the "Ramstein" format, as all decisions had already been made.