Kyiv says F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots could start in July

Ukraine's defense minister said on Saturday that an international program to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets could begin next month.

Kyiv, which has launched a counteroffensive against Russian forces, has repeatedly said it needs new Western aircraft to successfully counter Moscow's aerial dominance.

NATO members Denmark and the Netherlands are leading efforts by an international coalition to train pilots and support staff, maintain aircraft and ultimately supply F-16s to Ukraine.

In comments published to an official military platform on Saturday, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he hoped training would begin as soon as the program, which is currently being drawn up, is approved.

"The designated persons have been identified, the program will be prescribed by the beginning of July, it will be announced, (and) I can optimistically say that training will begin in July already," he said.

Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren told Reuters earlier this month that training could begin as soon as this summer.