Russia claims strikes on Ukrainian airbases intended for Western jets

According to the ministry’s statement, the operation targeted the airfield infrastructure of Ukraine, planned to accommodate aircraft from Western countries.

The Russian Defence Ministry has reported launching a series of strikes against Ukrainian airbases reportedly designated to house Western-supplied fighter jets, including US-designed F-16s. The attacks, which occurred on Thursday morning, employed a variety of weapons including long-range sea-based systems, the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

According to the ministry’s statement, the operation targeted the airfield infrastructure of Ukraine, planned to accommodate aircraft from Western countries. The ministry claimed that all designated targets have been hit, though it did not specify the number or locations of the airfields struck.

This development comes amid ongoing plans by Ukraine’s Western allies, including the United States, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands, to provide Kyiv with up to 60 F-16 fighter jets by the end of the year. However, no jets have been delivered yet, primarily due to ongoing pilot training programs.

Recent reports suggest that even after training is completed, only a handful of Ukrainian pilots will be qualified to operate the F-16s. Additionally, concerns have been raised about Ukraine’s capacity to maintain these advanced aircraft.

The shortage of trained pilots led to a suggestion by Sergey Golubtsov, chief of aviation of Ukraine’s Air Force Command, that some F-16s might be stationed in neighbouring NATO countries. However, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized that under a recent security agreement, the jets are intended to be based in Ukraine.

Moscow has consistently warned that any Western weapons delivered to Ukraine, including fighter jets and their bases, would be considered legitimate targets for Russian forces. Russian State Duma Defence Committee chairman Andrey Kartapolov extended this warning to NATO airfields if they were to be used for combat operations involving Western-supplied F-16s.

This latest military action by Russia underscores the ongoing tensions surrounding Western military aid to Ukraine and the potential for further escalation in the conflict. As the situation develops, the international community continues to watch closely, particularly regarding the planned deployment of F-16s and its implications for the broader geopolitical landscape.