Ukraine turns to higher production of drones as F-16 jets remain out of reach

F-16 Fighting Falcon. Credit: Staff Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby / Wikimedia Commons

Ukraine will not be able to operate US-made F-16 fighter jets in the immediate future, despite months of asking Western allies for the aircraft to bolster its defense against the ongoing Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Air Force has revealed. 

“It is obvious that we won’t be able to defend Ukraine this autumn and winter with the F-16s,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat told the United News local television broadcast on August 16, 2023. 

“There was great hope for this aircraft to become part of our air defense and protect us against missile and drone terror from Russia,” he added.  

US President Joe Biden recently approved training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed the news in a Facebook post on August 2, 2023, stating that “F-16 training of our pilots will begin this month”. 

While still hoping for the potential delivery of fighter jets, Ukraine turned to drones to fill in the tactical gap. In a video addressing the nation on August 16, 2023, Zelenskyy revealed that Kyiv was to “significantly” increase its production of drones. 

“Drones are the ‘eyes’ and protection on the front line,” President Zelenskyy said. “Drones are a guarantee that people will not have to pay with their lives when drones can be used.”  

In early July 2023, Turkish drone manufacturer Baykar announced it had begun the construction of a factory in Ukraine. Baykar’s Bayraktar TB2 drones played a crucial role in Ukraine’s defense during the initial weeks of the invasion, successfully targeting Russian armored vehicles and anti-aircraft systems. 

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