US plans to start training Ukrainian pilots on how to fly F-16s from next month, joining other allies to enhance Ukraine’s air capabilities approximately 18 months after Russia’s invasion.
According to sources, US training of Ukrainian pilots will begin in September. They will bring the pilots to the US, where they will initially learn the English language before commencing their training on piloting the advanced fighter jets.
Speaking in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder mentioned that the training program, taking place in Texas and Arizona, will involve ‘several’ pilots and ‘dozens’ of personnel responsible for aircraft maintenance.
US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discussed the training initiative during a call on Thursday, as confirmed by the White House.
The White House reaffirmed President Biden’s commitment to aid Ukraine’s defense and hold Russia accountable.
This US announcement expands on the plans of European allies Denmark and the Netherlands to donate F-16 jets to Ukraine. Norway also confirmed its intention to supply planes to Ukraine, with Greece joining the list of countries offering pilot training.
Ukraine’s Air Defense and Ongoing Conflict: Insights from US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff
Meanwhile, during an interview with Jordan’s Al-Mamlaka public service TV news channel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley stated that Ukraine was expected to receive the fighter jets ‘in the near future,’ as these aircraft would enhance Ukraine’s air defenses and strengthen its counteroffensive against Russian forces in the eastern part of the country.
Milley highlighted that Ukrainian troops were confronting well-prepared Russian reinforcements that had months to establish minefields, tank ditches, and tank obstacles, creating a complex defense infrastructure that Ukrainian forces were navigating through.
‘The Ukrainian forces still retain a significant level of combat effectiveness; this conflict is ongoing,’ he emphasized.
‘While there have been some achievements so far, it’s progressing slower than initially anticipated,’ Milley added during the interview in Amman, underlining the challenging nature of the conflict.
He explained that Ukrainian forces were undergoing intensive training across various parts of Europe in areas like command and control of offensive formations and combined arms maneuvering, as well as strategies to overcome intricate obstacles, which will augment their capabilities. The four-star US Army general acknowledged that the process was ‘arduous, protracted, and gradual,’ as anticipated months ago.
Ryder estimated the F-16 training to last for five to eight months, depending on the pilots’ existing skills. He also stressed on the importance of initial language training, considering the specialized English language required to operate these aircraft.