The Pentagon has said the United States will be involved in providing training to Ukrainian fighter pilots on the F-16 aircraft.
At a Pentagon news conference, Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said training on the F-16 might begin in the next few weeks or months, though he couldn’t yet say exactly who would be doing the training.
Last week in Japan during a meeting of G7 leaders, including those from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, President Joe Biden said the U.S. will support an effort with partners and allies to train Ukrainian fighter pilots on how to use the aircraft.
Tuesday, Gen. Ryder explained in further detail that the training, and any eventual transfer of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine is meant to support mid- and long-term defense needs, rather than defense in the short term for an expected counter-offensive against Russian forces.
Currently, no number of F-16s, any indication of where those aircraft will come from, or when they will be delivered, has been revealed.
“The training will take place outside of Ukraine at sites in Europe. But in terms of … when that training will begin, how those jets will be provided, who will provide them, we’re continuing to work with our international partners on that front,” Ryder told reporters.
For some time, F-16s were not on the table for Ukraine. But recently, the U.S. agreed that partner nations can train Ukrainians on use of the aircraft. At the last Ukraine Defense Contact Group in April, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin received several requests from countries who wanted U.S. permission to train Ukrainians on the F-16.
“He subsequently introduced that matter to the U.S. National Security Council policy process, and there was unanimous agreement that this was something that we should and need to support,” Ryder said.
The F-16 aircraft is an American weapon system, and nations who want them must work with the U.S. to acquire it. Foreign military sales agreements also mean that those who own the F-16 must seek permission from the U.S. before they transfer those aircraft to other nations.
Since the very first meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in April 2022, the DOD has said the focus is not just on Ukraine’s immediate defense needs — but its long-term defense needs. Ryder made it clear that the F-16 training and any eventual transfer of aircraft to Ukraine will be part of that long-term support plan.
The F-16 is a single-engine, supersonic, multirole tactical fighter jet plane that can outmaneuver most other warplanes, while also carrying almost any bomb or missile in the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has been saying that Ukraine is badly in need of F-16 fighters to counter increasing pressure from Russian attacks.
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