A front view of an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft armed with an AIM-9L Sidewinder training missile on the wingtip and two Mark 84 2,000-pound live bombs.

The US plans to deploy F-16 fighter jets directly on Ukrainian soil, as confirmed by Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Advisor. Sullivan stated in an interview with PBS that the intention is to station the F-16s in Ukraine, emphasizing the bilateral security agreement between US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This agreement underscores Washington’s commitment to supporting Kyiv in acquiring and housing these jets in Nezalezhna.

Despite Russian opposition, Ukraine has been preparing extensively for the deployment of F-16 fighter jets. Concerns have been raised about potential Russian attacks on newly constructed Ukrainian airfields and support facilities for these Western-supplied aircraft. Ukrainian investments have focused on building crucial infrastructure, including airfields, radar stations, training facilities, maintenance equipment, fuel purification systems, and missile storage facilities.

Ukraine is set to receive a substantial number of F-16 fighter jets from its allies, potentially exceeding 75, which are expected to bolster its defense capabilities significantly against potential Russian aggression. There are, however, ongoing concerns about ensuring the safe arrival and operational readiness of these jets in Ukraine.

The possibility of Russian strikes targeting newly constructed F-16 airstrips raises critical questions about contingency plans. If runways under construction are destroyed, Ukrainian F-16s may need to take off from alternate locations, possibly in neighboring countries like Romania, Poland, or the Baltic states. Such scenarios could escalate tensions further and challenge existing norms of conflict, potentially involving Western ground forces and further complicating peace efforts.

Meanwhile, a Russian company has reportedly offered financial rewards for shooting down anticipated Ukrainian F-16s, reflecting heightened tensions surrounding the jets’ deployment.

President Biden has clarified that the US-Ukraine security agreement does not include deploying US troops to Ukraine, but reaffirmed US support for long-range strikes against Russian targets, emphasizing Washington’s strategic stance.

President Zelensky has announced that Ukraine’s security agreement includes Patriot air defense systems and multiple fighter squadrons, including the F-16s, aimed at enhancing Ukraine’s defense capabilities.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine, alleging that they could potentially serve as carriers for nuclear weapons, echoing concerns about NATO’s historical use of such jets in nuclear missions.