Ukraine is looking to deploy F-16 fighter jets by March 2024, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview published on Wednesday.
So far, no government has committed to providing Ukraine with the US-made aircraft.
The interview with Radio Svoboda (Radio Liberty), recorded on Tuesday, comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in which the two nations “agreed to start training pilots in August.”
“We are getting closer to a decision on modern aviation for Ukraine,” Zelensky said on Telegram.
When asked Tuesday if he could publicly announce when training will start and when Ukraine may expect to receive F-16s, Kuleba told Radio Svoboda: "I think it's just a very complicated technical issue. The training should start sometime in August, maybe in early September."
"In parallel, there will be preparation of judicial decisions necessary for the transfer of the aircrafts and the aircrafts themselves. I think if by the end of the first quarter of next year the first F-16s are flying in Ukrainian air, flown by Ukrainian pilots, it will be on schedule," he continued.
But he noted that there needs to be trainings for engineers and technicians, plus the preparation of infrastructure.
More background: In May, CNN reported that the US changed its stance over supplying F-16s to Ukraine, telling allies it would allow exports of the fighter jets.
A handful of European countries have a supply of the US-made F-16s, including the Netherlands, which has signalled a willingness to export some of them to Ukraine. But the US would have to approve that third party transfer because of the jets’ sensitive US technology.
Ukraine has argued F-16s are essential to fight off Russian air attacks.