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Politico: Democrats urge Pentagon to train more Ukrainian F-16 pilots

by Kateryna Denisova and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 1, 2024 11:42 PM 2 min read
A group of F-16 aircraft is seen during a flyby over Nationals Park stadium in Washington, DC, on March 30, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds /AFP via Getty Images)
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Fifteen House Democrats called on the U.S. Department of Defense to expand the scale and speed of training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, Politico reported on July 1, citing a letter it obtained.

Ukraine is expected to receive the first F-16 jets this summer, a year after Denmark and the Netherlands founded the "fighter jet coalition" with nine other countries at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July 2023.

The coalition pledged to help provide Kyiv with F-16s and train Ukrainian pilots and technical staff to operate the U.S.-made fourth-generation jets.

The group of lawmakers, led by U.S. Congressman from California Adam Schiff, ask Pentagon support Ukraine's request and ask to train 10 more F-16 pilots this year, according to the outlet.

Politico reported in early June that delays in the American F-16 training program frustrates Ukraine. The U.S. reportedly has not granted the request, citing commitments to other nations in line for F-16 training at the base.

“The request comes at a critical juncture in Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia, where the deployment of F-16 aircraft has the potential to significantly influence the outcome of the war,” the letter read.

It says that Kyiv "will have more F-16 aircraft than they will have qualified pilots to fly them by the end of the year," which "threatens to undermine the strategic advantages" that these aircraft can provide to Ukraine.

Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway have so far pledged more than 70 jets to Ukraine to be delivered from 2024 onwards.

A total of 20 Ukrainian pilots are anticipated to complete F-16 training by the end of 2024, Politico reported. That number is only half of the 40 aviators needed to operate a full squadron of 20 F-16 jets.

Eight new pilots will begin training at the facility in Romania, while another eight are set to undergo training at the Tucson base in Arizona. For the rest of the year, across all training sites, only four spots will be available for Ukrainian pilots, an unnamed official told Politico.

‘Deliberate delays’ to F-16 training will mean more jets than pilots, Ukrainian MP says
The U.S. is “deliberately delaying” F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots, resulting in a situation where there will be “fewer trained pilots than fighter jets,” Ukrainian MP Oleksandra Ustinova said to the Times in an article published on June 17.

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