In a long-awaited move, the U.S. will allow allies to send U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to Kiev once Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly them, a U.S. official confirmed Thursday. However, approvals may not come for several months due to the condition that Ukraine’s pilots must be fully trained.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which began two months ago, has the potential to prevail without fighter jets, experts say, but it will be more difficult.
The deadline for US approvals is unlikely to surprise Ukraine. Ukraine’s air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said Wednesday that it has become clear that it will not be able to operate or receive F-16 fighter jets this coming fall or winter, confirming that the planes will not play a role. Counter attack.
“We had high hopes for this flight,” he said.
The U.S. decision had been expected since May, when President Biden eased his opposition to NATO allies’ efforts to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s and supply jets to Ukraine. The official who confirmed the U.S. transition was not authorized to discuss the deal publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Some pilot training may now take place in the United States, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.
“The United States stands ready to support a coordinated training effort with the coalition, and is ready to train Ukrainian pilots inside the United States if capacity is reached in Europe,” Brig. Pentagon spokesman Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said in a statement.
Ukraine has Soviet-era MIG and Sukhoi fighter jets, but has long argued that the F-16s would help it achieve air superiority, something neither side has decisively achieved since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
U.S. transfer approvals, when they come, are expected to go to Denmark and the Netherlands, which lead the alliance to train the pilots. Dutch Foreign Minister Voepke Hoekstra on Friday told Foreign Secretary Antony J. Thanks to Blinken. In a post on XThe site, formerly known as Twitter, is for Washington’s “better and faster collaboration.”
The U.S. Air Force estimated in March that the fastest time frame for full training would be four to six months; Other estimates are longer. And time-consuming training on how to maintain jets is also necessary.
U.S. officials say Ukraine has identified only eight fighter pilots who speak enough English to begin training. This is less than what is needed for a single force. About 20 people are being sent to Britain this month to learn English.
The F-16, or Fighting Falcon, first flew in 1976 and is used by militaries in dozens of countries for air-to-air combat and air-to-ground attacks.
The F-16 fighter jets are built by US defense contractor Lockheed Martin and manufactured in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. According to a senior Ukrainian official, all four countries have expressed interest in moving the planes to Kyiv.
In May, Mr. Before Biden allowed Ukrainian pilots to train on F-16s, the leaders of Britain and the Netherlands declared An international coalition providing Ukraine with fighter jets and training to fly them. Then British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that training will be provided Starting this summer.
In July, Denmark’s Defense Minister Trolls Pålsen, told reporters The country hopes to see “results” from the exercise early next year.