Two Ukrainian pilots are in the United States for an assessment of their skills in flying fighter jets, according to three people familiar with the discussions, even as administration officials say there are no plans to send F-16s to Kyiv for now.
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During the program, which is taking place at an Air National Guard base in Tuscon, Ariz., the pilots have been flying aircraft simulators so the U.S. military can evaluate their flying and mission-planning capabilities, said the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss a sensitive effort. The pilots will not fly U.S. aircraft.
The aim is to assess their overall skills and what training they need to better use “their own capabilities and capabilities we have provided them on their own planes,” said one of the three, who is a U.S. official. The U.S. has provided bombs, missiles and guidance kits for Ukraine’s Soviet-era aircraft.
“The program involves watching how Ukrainian pilots conduct their mission planning and execution in flight simulators in order to determine how we can better advise the Ukrainian Air Force,” the U.S. official said.
A Defense Department official and another person familiar with the program said the aim is to evaluate how long it will take Ukrainian pilots to learn to fly modern fighter aircraft, including F-16s. The program was supposed to begin late last year, but was delayed, the people said.
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The United States and its allies have attempted to assist Ukraine by upgrading its patchwork of air defenses. However, the US is secretly altering rocket launchers to keep Ukraine from firing missiles into Russia.
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