The United States is committed to approving the F-16s for Ukraine once training is complete



CNN

The United States has pledged to approve the transfer of the F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine once the training is completed, according to a US official.

The plan is to ensure that Ukraine has the fighter jet it has long sought the moment its pilots complete their F-16 training.

Denmark and the Netherlands have taken the lead in setting up a program to train Ukrainian pilots for the American jet, but the United States is still working with other countries to see who might provide the F-16s to the Ukrainian Air Force.

On Friday, the United States approved the transfer of F-16 instructional materials from Denmark to Ukraine, according to a US official and an administration official.

The administration official said the transfer would allow the Danish Ministry of Defense to move forward with its “efforts to identify pilot training and maintenance programmes.” The official said the approval includes training modules, documentation and classroom training materials, which contain information about sensitive US technology.

Approval of the request for third-party transport from Denmark was one of the crucial steps before Ukrainian pilots began training to fly the fourth-generation planes that Kiev had ordered months ago. Denmark said Ukrainian pilots will begin training on the F-16 later this month, as part of a coalition of 11 countries that will take part in the training programme.

In a sign of continued US support for the program, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent messages to his counterparts in Denmark and the Netherlands assuring them that moving the planes would have the “full support” of the Biden administration and would move quickly when training on the advanced aircraft was completed.

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“You have my assurances that we will expedite approval of required third-party transfer requests in a timely manner to enable delivery upon completion of training, including required notification to Congress,” Blinken wrote in the letters.

Reuters first reported on the US approval of the transfer of aircraft.

A one-page training concept from the Danish Ministry of Defense laid out a six-month plan to prepare pilots and ground crews to operate the fighter jet.

But the United States has not yet received a formal training plan to familiarize and prepare Ukrainian pilots for the fourth-generation fighter jet. Although a number of other countries use the F-16, the United States needs to sign off on the transfer of training materials, simulators, and manuals for the aircraft because it is an American aircraft that carries sensitive technology.

“We want to get them there as soon as possible,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN correspondent Jake Tapper Thursday. “The other thing you have to fold here is the training piece. You have to make sure that you have enough pilots, that they have the proper command of English and then get them into that training.”

“We think that training will be able to start here relatively soon,” Kirby added.

However, Ukraine said on Wednesday that it does not expect to receive even the F-16s sometime next year.

“It has already become clear that we will not be able to defend Ukraine with F-16s this fall and winter,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yury Ikhnat said during an appearance on Ukrainian state television on Wednesday.

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The commander of the US Air Forces in Europe and Africa said on Friday that the Ukrainian pilots who will learn to fly the F-16 fighter jets are receiving language instruction in the UK, because all the materials and tools on the plane itself are in the UK. English, before they began flying training aircraft.

“They will get more training on that [propellor aircraft] “Then get down to France and fly in the Alpha for a bit,” General James Hecker said, speaking to a round table of reporters as part of a group of defense writers. The Alpha aircraft used by the French as an advanced jet trainer.

“It’s all going to take time, and it’s probably not going to happen before the end of the year, so that’s going to take some time to get there,” Hecker said. “That’s why it will be at least until next year that you see F-16s in Ukraine.”

Hecker said that the Ukrainian pilots participating in the F-16 training program are younger pilots who “have hardly any hours at all” and are not currently participating in the war.

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