Pentagon To Send Ukrainian Pilots For F-16 Training To Texas & Arizona

A US official told The New York Times on Thursday that the Pentagon will start training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets in the US. The training might begin as soon as September.

Pentagon To Send Ukrainian Pilots For F-16 Training To Texas And Arizona

Similar training is already happening in the Netherlands and Denmark. However, Kiev has expressed frustration because the program has been slow to start and only involves six Ukrainian pilots. As a result, the timeline for Ukraine to use the US-made jets in combat has been pushed back. Initial estimates aimed for next summer, but now it might not happen until the end of 2024.

A Pentagon spokesperson mentioned a few days ago, on Monday, “[We’re] open to training existing pilots if capacity is reached in Europe.”

“That’s the condition. So, if Denmark and the Netherlands are taking the lead on training, if they just do not have the capacity… to train as many pilots as Ukraine wants to send or plans to send, then we will… help train stateside,” the earlier statement added.

New details emerged on Thursday, revealing a stronger commitment from the US. They are expanding training sites, including in Texas and Arizona.

The NY Times details “The pilots will first receive English language training in Texas and then begin months of flight training in Arizona, said the U.S. official who addressed the issue on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss future training plans.”

Currently, Denmark and the Netherlands have promised their own Lockheed-manufactured F-16s. Recently, the Biden administration decided to allow these fighters to be exported by third parties. They might also contribute their own F-16s eventually.

Ukrainian officials have consistently expressed frustration, deeming the F-16 support insufficient and arriving too late for the failing counteroffensive. The lack of air superiority hampers Kiev’s strategic goal of reclaiming territory. Analysts view the F-16 program as crucial for Ukraine’s post-war defense.

Frank St. John, the chief operations officer of the defense manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, stated that they are ready to train Ukrainians to pilot F-16s once NATO reaches an agreement.

The Europe-based pilot training program only has a small group of six Ukrainian pilots. The US program isn’t expected to accommodate a large number of potential pilots either.

Regarding the exact location in Texas, it’s likely that the Ukrainians would train at one of several Air Force facilities in San Antonio.

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