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US official: F-16 jets to take 'several months at best' to arrive in Ukraine
It will take "several months at best" to deliver U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, according to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, cited by CNN.
The U.S. announced on May 20 that it would train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 jet fighters and cooperate with its allies to deliver the planes to Ukraine.
The training will unfold in the coming months. However, the allies are yet to decide which country will provide the jets, how many, or when.
A number of details have to be worked out before Ukrainian pilots can fly Western aircraft in large numbers, Kendall told reporters on May 22.
"We are not under any circumstances going to get F-16s or another Western fighter in significant numbers into the hands of the Ukrainian Air Force in something less than at least several months," Kendall added, as quoted by CNN.
"Several months" is a relatively quick time frame, the official said, since it usually takes over two years to train a new American pilot on the F-16 aircraft.
On May 17, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte agreed to build an international coalition to help procure F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine. The coalition will be formed already this year, said Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Ukraine has been campaigning for F-16s to be provided for months.
Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, said on May 16 that Ukraine wants between 40 and 50 F-16 fighter jets.