Russian military expert says Moscow will destroy Ukraine's F-16 airfields

Kyiv has been promised dozens of the advanced fighter jet to aid fight against Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen sit in a F-16 fighter jet at Skrydstrup Airbase in Vojens, Denmark. EPA
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Russia will counter the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine by attacking the airfields that Kyiv must build for the aircraft to operate, a Russian military expert has said.

The Netherlands and Denmark have said they will supply the US-made jets to the Ukrainian military after receiving approval from Washington last week.

Delivery of the planes, which Kyiv has sought to counter Russian aerial attacks, are expected to begin later this year.

According to Viktor Litovkin, a retired Russian colonel, Ukraine will need to prepare “properly equipped airfields, radar stations, and special preflight preparation and post-flight maintenance equipment, as well as aviation fuel purifying devices and missile storage sites” for the F-16s.

“Ukraine doesn’t have anything like that. If they start to build it all, Russia will not turn a blind eye to it. The Russian Armed Forces will simply wait until the construction work reaches a certain point and then carry out strikes,” Mr Litovkin told Russia’s state-owned Tass news agency.

Denmark and the Netherlands have pledged to hand over 61 F-16 jets to Ukraine once its pilots have been trained to use them.

Copenhagen will deliver 19 of the planes, six of them by the end of this year, eight next year and five in 2025, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday.

Visiting Greece on Monday, Mr Zelenskyy said Athens will also help train F-16 pilots and rebuild the port city of Odesa.

He said it was “an important result for the air coalition”.

Mr Litovkin said the F-16s would not be able to match the capabilities of Russia’s fighter jets, pointing out that they were “single-engine aircraft that aren’t capable of performing complicated manoeuvres in the air”, whereas Russian aircraft had two engines.

“Our planes can actually spin in place, slipping away from missiles thanks to their high manoeuvrability,” he claimed.

Training by an 11-nation coalition will begin this month, and officials hope pilots will be ready by early 2024.

While some training has already begun for Ukrainian pilots, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Sunday that it had been limited to language lessons so far.

Ukraine has been pressing its western allies for months to supply it with fighter jets.

Its armed forces are still using ageing Soviet-era combat planes from the 1970s and 1980s, and its counter-offensive against Russian positions is advancing without air support, which analysts say is a major handicap.

Russia has recently stepped up its bombardment of Ukraine as its land forces face a counter-offensive in the east and south.

Gains by either side have been hard won as the war enters its 19th month since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Updated: August 22, 2023, 6:43 AM