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Politico: Western partners have so far failed to agree on F-16 training plan for Ukraine

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 26, 2023 9:11 AM 2 min read
Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter jets during NATO's Baltic Air Policing Mission in Lithuanian airspace near Siauliai on May 23, 2023. (AFP via Getty Images)
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Western partners have not yet agreed on a plan to instruct Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, according to a Politico article published on July 25, which cites U.S. officials.

So far, no country in the Western fighter jet coalition has publicly committed aircraft to support the training and no final decision on plans for the program has been made, despite hopes that it would start this summer.

At the Vilnius NATO summit earlier in July, Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov signed a memorandum with 11 countries outlining the F-16 training terms for Ukrainian pilots.

"I'm especially grateful to Denmark and the Netherlands for their outstanding leadership in this process," the defense minister said on July 11.

According to Politico's sources, one idea that has been discussed is to send Ukrainian pilots to the U.S. to be trained at an Air National Guard unit in Arizona. The base already trains foreign partners on how to operate F-16s.

An alternative idea is to send U.S. pilots to Europe to train Ukrainian pilots at a European base.

Politico added that Draken International, an aerospace contractor, has recruited retired military pilots to train Ukrainians in a facility being set up in Romania as a regional F-16 training center.

On July 21, US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said that Ukraine will receive F-16 fighter jets before the end of the year.

"However, we do not believe that F-16s alone can alter the situation on the battlefield," Kirby said, adding that Ukraine has an immediate need for a greater quantity of artillery munitions.

On July 17, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that U.S. President Joe Biden "has given a green light" to allow European countries to launch the much-anticipated training for Ukrainian pilots to use F-16 fighter jets.

However, export restrictions mean that the U.S. still needs to "formally approve the transfer of associated training materials, such as instruction manuals and flight simulators," according to Politico.

Sullivan said that they are awaiting the set-up of the necessary training infrastructure from European partners.

A Politico source added that, although Ukrainian pilots will be flying by the end of 2023, “an actual F-16 with Ukrainian colors” is not likely before the spring of 2024.

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