Ukraine does not expect US-made F-16 fighter jets to arrive this year, a Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson said Wednesday.
Kyiv has been pleading for the advanced jets from Western allies for more than a year, arguing they will provide the military with additional air defense and offensive capabilities.
"It's already become clear that we will not be able to defend Ukraine with F-16s this fall and winter," Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat told Ukrainian public television.
CNN reported on August 1 that the United States was waiting for European officials to submit a final plan for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, which the US will have to authorize before the program can begin, according to officials familiar with the matter.
The training is supposed to start this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European officials have said publicly. But more than two months after President Joe Biden announced US support for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, there remain a number of critical details to work out.
Ihnat said Wednesday that progress was being made toward training pilots.
"The issue has moved forward. We understand that our pilots will be training in the near future," he said. "But at the same time, our anti-air defense needs to be strengthened."
Some context: The F-16s would be an upgrade to the largely Soviet-era aircraft currently in Ukraine’s fleet but analysts have cautioned that the jets aren’t a cure-all and have vulnerabilities that Moscow would be well aware of and could exploit.