First Photo of Ukrainian F-16 Is Making Russia ‘Nervous’: Kyiv Official

Russian officials are getting a “little nervous” over the first published photo of an F-16 fighter jet marked with a Ukrainian seal, said a spokesperson for Kyiv’s Air Force Yuriy Ihnat.

The American-made fighter jets have been long sought after by Ukraine, which is set to receive several dozens of the aircraft over the next year or so from its Western allies, including the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Norway. Training programs to get Ukrainian pilots up to speed on the modern aircraft have also taken place in the United Kingdom, the United States, Romania and Denmark.

In an interview published by Voice of America (VOA) last week, a Ukrainian pilot who goes by the call sign Phantom told the outlet about his experiences undergoing training on the F-16s while in the U.S., adding that he was “very impressed” by the machine. A photo of Phantom in front of an F-16, which had a Ukrainian insignia on its rear wing, was also shared with VOA. The pilot’s face was covered in the picture.

“You saw the interview, our Phantom guy, and that interesting photo he made where the markings are visible,” Ihnat said during a national broadcast Monday. “Some discuss whether they are real or not. Let’s see what the Russians are saying–and we see them saying things–and let them be a little nervous.”

Anton Gerashchenko, internal affairs advisor, shared the image on X, formerly Twitter, on February 9.

Newsweek reached out to Russia’s Foreign Ministry via email for comment.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed claims that the F-16s will be able to flip the course of the war in Ukraine, where Moscow has recently appeared to gain the upper hand. Still, Ihnat touted the machinery as a “sweet target” for Russia, adding that Kyiv’s military is doing “everything so that the infrastructure that is being prepared…[and] gets properly adapted.”

“Because making it proper is not too simple of a process, especially when we are under daily attacks,” he added. That is why infrastructure is being adapted, pilots are being trained.”

Phantom told VOA in his interview that preparations for F-16s to be ready for battle are in “full swing as planned,” adding that “Not only the pilots are trained, but as you know, so are the ground staff, our mechanics who will maintain those aircraft, our support units who will ensure that the missions are completed.”

“Our pilots are very impressed,” the Ukranian pilot added during the interview. “This plane simply exceeded their expectations. Even with the amount of information they have received during training, they already see great prospects and great potential for how this aircraft will help our Air Force to increase our combat aviation capabilities.”

Norway’s Minister of Defense, Bjørn Arild Gram, sits in the back of an F16 aircraft at Bodø airport, Norway, on January 3, 2024, where the final preparations are being made before two Norwegian F-16 aircraft…