Zelenskyy outlines needs for successful counteroffensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

The first F-16 aircraft arriving in Ukraine this year will not play a key role on the front due to their insufficient numbers, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with the French news agency AFP, published on May 18.

"They (F-16s) will not be enough, but these are the first steps," the President stated.

"Ukraine needs about 120-130 F-16 fighter jets and other modern aircraft to resist the Russian invaders."

"This will be a capable Ukrainian fleet to defend the sky against 300 aircraft — that's exactly the number Russia uses against Ukraine," Zelenskyy explained.

"There are prospects for a counteroffensive. We need to stabilize the situation at the front. It is currently unstable. Now it's the Russian military's turn to have an advantage on the battlefield," Zelenskyy said.

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The Ukrainian President stated that while the Ukrainian military will stop the occupiers, the Armed Forces must have the appropriate number of brigades to count on counteroffensive steps.

Zelenskyy neither confirmed nor denied that the counteroffensive may take place in 2025.

He noted that he knows the dates for the start of the counteroffensive but "can't" talk about them.

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F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine: what is known

In August 2023, the Netherlands and Denmark pledged to jointly transfer 61 American F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, following permission from the U.S.

Additionally, Norway confirmed its intention to supply F-16s. Belgium will also transfer F-16s to Ukraine, starting in 2025.

Read also: Netherlands extends $213 million in air defense and munitions aid to Ukraine

In December, the Netherlands announced its decision to begin preparations for transferring the first 18 aircraft to Ukraine, later increasing this number to 24. In total, the country promised Kyiv 42 fighter jets.

The first half of 2024 was cited as the approximate delivery date for the fighter jets to Ukraine.

On February 18, 2024, Foreign Policy, citing European officials, reported that the first F-16 fighter jets would arrive in Ukraine around June 2024. Yuriy Ignat, then spokesman of the Ukrainian Air Force, commented that specific dates for the transfer could not be confirmed by foreign partners.

On March 22, the UK government announced that the first 10 Ukrainian pilots had completed basic flight, ground, and language training on F-16 fighter jets in Great Britain.

On May 6, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren announced that the country plans to start sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in the fall. Simultaneously, Ole Egberg Mikkelsen stated that the planes would arrive this summer.

On May 10, The Standard, citing a high-ranking military source, reported that the first Western F-16 fighter jets would arrive in Ukraine within a few weeks.

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