President Joe Biden told G7 leaders that the United States will support a coordinated effort with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots in the use of fighter jets, including the F-16. The White House confirms this after earlier reports on the matter appeared in the US media.
The exercise is expected to take place entirely in Europe. However, U.S. personnel will participate in exercises with allies in Europe. This is expected to take several months.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who will attend the G7 summit in Japan, called the decision “historic” on Twitter. Zelensky has repeatedly urged his Western allies to supply fighter jets. Because the F-16s are manufactured in the United States, delivery requires US approval.
However, US participation in a possible exercise does not mean that the US has already decided to supply fighter jets to Ukraine. “As the exercise takes place over the next few months, the coalition of countries participating in this initiative will decide whether we will actually provide aircraft, how many and who will provide them,” a government official told CNN.
In March, the U.S. stationed two Ukrainian pilots at a military base in Tucson, Arizona, to evaluate their skills using flight simulators to assess how long it would take them to learn how to fly various U.S. military aircraft, including the F-16. The US Congress has earmarked money for such training in the 2023 budget.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he had reached an agreement with Prime Minister Mark Rutte to lead the international warplane coalition for Ukraine. “From training to receiving F-16s,” said a spokesman for Sunak. Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra denied this a day later and said the Netherlands was not that far ahead. Denmark announced immediately after Biden’s statement of support that it wanted to begin training Ukrainian pilots. (AP)
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