US defense chief 'optimistic' F-16s will be transferred to Ukraine this summer

'We're working hard to get Ukraine and F-16 capability this summer,' says Lloyd Austin

17:19 - 14/06/2024 Friday
File photo
File photo

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday that he is "optimistic" that American F-16s will be delivered to Ukraine this summer as Kyiv prepares to field the fighter aircraft amid an ongoing stalemate against Russia forces.

"We're working hard to get Ukraine an F-16 capability this summer, and I think, you know, I'm optimistic that will happen," Austin told reporters in Brussels during a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

Ukrainian pilots are currently training in the US on the fighter jets ahead of the deliveries from Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.

Austin welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron's announcement last week that Paris will supply Ukraine with Mirage fighter jets, saying "every bit helps."

He maintained, however, that managing logistics around the complex weapons systems will be imperative as Kyiv prepares to deploy the fighter jets against Russian forces.

"We have to make sure that, you know, we have all of the things in place to manage two complex systems and protect those systems at the same time," he said. "We just need to make sure that we knit together the sustainment. and make sure that, you know, those systems are interoperable as used in Ukraine, and I'm sure that once the training is complete and once all the coordination has been done, we'll see some good results."

- NATO expansion

Austin further said that he does not see "any desire or indication" among NATO member states for expansion of the transatlantic alliance "at any point in the near future."

"There will always be countries that will want to join NATO. It's because of the values that NATO embraces, because of, you know, the kinds of things that we take on, the commitments that we make to each other in terms of, you know, our commitment to defend the territory of each country that's involved, that's a part of the Alliance," he said.

"But again, it is a defensive alliance, and again, I think at this point in time, you know, the members of the alliance would probably want to see things stabilize and settle out as we get the new members on board, and continue to refine our plans, as we were doing in this meeting," Austin added.

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1 month ago