US President Joe Biden has given the green light to the program of training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets. This was announced by Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh at a briefing.
The leading role in this program will be played by Denmark and the Netherlands, Singh stressed. She added that she was not authorized to disclose details.
In July, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the start of training for Ukrainian pilots, believing that it would begin “very soon”. The Financial Times reported that a group of 11 Western countries would start training from August.
According to Politico, so far none of the participating countries have provided aircraft for the training program. According to John Kirby, coordinator of the White House National Security Council, key details of the course – dates, location and duration – are still being worked out.
Politico’s sources told that the first group of eight Ukrainian pilots fluent in English have already been identified for F-16 training. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov confirmed the program will begin in August. The training will begin in Denmark. For long-term programs, the parties will establish a center in Romania. Full-fledged training is not expected to begin until late 2023, with the first aircraft arriving in Ukraine no earlier than spring 2024.
Ukraine lost a significant part of its combat aviation during the Russian aggression. In June, the country’s Defense Ministry said that Kiev needs four squadrons of F-16s – a total of 48 aircraft – to successfully conduct combat operations. Biden approached partners about training Ukrainian pilots to fly the fourth-generation fighters after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May.