Allies to Be Allowed to Send F-16s to Ukraine, U.S. Official Says

In a long-awaited transfer, the United States will enable allies to ship American-made F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv as soon as Ukrainian pilots are educated to function them, a U.S. official confirmed on Thursday. However, the requirement that Ukraine’s pilots be absolutely educated implies that the approvals won’t come for months.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which started two months in the past, has an opportunity of prevailing with out the fighter jets, consultants say, however it’s doubtless to be far tougher.

The time-frame for the U.S. approvals is unlikely to shock Ukraine. A spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force, Yuriy Ihnat, mentioned on Wednesday that it had turn into clear the nation wouldn’t have the opportunity to function or obtain F-16 fighter jets this coming fall or winter, confirming that the planes won’t play a job within the counteroffensive.

“We had high hopes for this aircraft,” he mentioned.

The U.S. choice had been anticipated since May, when President Biden eased his resistance to NATO allies’ efforts to prepare Ukrainian pilots on F-16s and supply the jets to Ukraine. The official who confirmed the U.S. shift was not approved to publicly talk about the settlement and spoke on situation of anonymity.

Some of the pilot coaching might now happen within the United States, a Pentagon spokesman mentioned on Thursday.

“The U.S. is prepared to support the training effort in coordination with the coalition, and is willing to host training for Ukrainian pilots within the U.S. if the capacity is reached in Europe,” Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, mentioned in a press release.

Ukraine has Soviet-era MIG and Sukhoi fighter jets, however has lengthy argued that F-16s may allow it to obtain air superiority, one thing neither aspect has decisively attained since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

The U.S. switch approvals, after they come, are anticipated to go to Denmark and the Netherlands, that are main a coalition to prepare the pilots. The Dutch overseas minister, Wopke Hoekstra, on Friday thanked Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in a post on X, the platform previously generally known as Twitter, for Washington’s “good and swift cooperation.”

A March evaluation by the U.S. Air Force instructed probably the most speedy time-frame for full coaching can be 4 to six months; different estimates are longer. And time-consuming coaching on how to preserve the jets will even be mandatory.

American officers have mentioned that Ukraine has recognized solely eight fight pilots who converse English effectively sufficient to begin coaching. That is fewer than mandatory for a single squadron. About 20 others are being despatched to Britain this month to study English.

The F-16, or Fighting Falcon, first flown in 1976, is utilized by militaries in dozens of nations for air-to-air fight and air-to-ground strikes.

The F-16 fighter jets are constructed by the American protection contractor Lockheed Martin and are manufactured in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. All 4 international locations have signaled their willingness to switch the planes to Kyiv, in accordance to a senior Ukrainian official.

In May, earlier than Mr. Biden agreed to enable the Ukrainian pilots to be educated on F-16s, the leaders of Britain and the Netherlands announced a world coalition to present Ukraine with the fighter jets and the coaching to fly them. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain mentioned then that the coaching would begin this summer.

In July, Denmark’s appearing protection minister, Troels Poulsen, told reporters that the nation hoped to see “results” from the coaching early subsequent 12 months.

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