The plan to protect the F-16 from Russian attacks revealed by the Ukrainian commander

THOMAS LOHNES/GETTY IMAGES

Ukraine will station part of its fleet of Western-donated F-16 fighter jets out of the country to avoid Russian attacks on advanced aircraft, a senior Ukrainian commander said.

"A certain number of aircraft will be stored in secure air bases outside Ukraine, so that they are not targeted here," Serhiy Golubtsov, head of aviation at the Ukrainian Air Force Command, told Radio Free Europe.

Four countries – Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium – have pledged to provide dozens of F-16 jets to Ukraine to bolster its aging and depleted fleet against superior and outnumbered Russian aircraft.

Kiev has long sought jets from Lockheed Martin, although exactly when the aircraft would arrive and be operational was never made clear.

They are expected in the next few weeks, although delays and uncertainties have plagued the timelines set by donor countries.

Ukrainian pilots have been attending training in several NATO countries, while Kiev is setting up the necessary infrastructure to operate the aircraft.

- We have a certain number of prepared airports and we know the number of planes that will enter this year," said Golubtsov and added that some of the donated planes will remain in the centers where Ukrainian pilots and aviation personnel are trained.

Photo: Andy Reeve-Smith

Some of the aircraft based outside Ukraine will be used to replace jets undergoing repair or maintenance, giving Kiev a constant number of operational aircraft at any time, the aviation chief added.

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