The United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots in fourth-generation fighter jets and support an international effort to procure warplanes for Ukraine as part of underscoring a commitment to the country’s defense.
A senior administration official told reporters that “the training will take place over the next few months, our coalition of countries participating in this effort will decide when we actually supply the jets, how many we will supply and who will supply them.” The program will include training on the F-16 among other combat aircraft, with the program taking place over the next few months at sites in Europe.
“We hope to be able to start this training in the coming weeks,” the official said, adding that this program, which aims to improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian Air Force, reflects “our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense.”
“To date, the United States, our allies and partners have focused on providing Ukraine with the vast majority of systems, weapons and training it needs to conduct offensive operations this spring and summer,” the official said.
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“Together with the short- and medium-term security assistance packages we are providing to Ukraine, President Biden is sending a powerful signal that the United States and our allies and partners are fully united in ensuring that Ukraine remains sovereign, independent and secure with the ability to defend itself and deter future attacks”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he praised the news on Twittercalling it a “historic decision” that will “significantly improve our military in the sky”.
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The delivery of fourth-generation fighter jets to Ukraine has remained a contentious issue since the early days of the Russian invasion, as Russian drones and fighter jets launched missiles and strikes across the country.
The Biden administration has resisted calls to supply F-16s and other similar warplanes to Ukraine as Western leaders grappled with how to help Ukrainian forces build up their strength without giving Russia the impression that it is directly involved in the conflict.
Instead, the United States could simply allow allies with F-16s to send their jets to Ukraine, Politico reported. European governments and a bipartisan push from US lawmakers may have finally prompted Biden to consider alternatives.
Documents leaked from the Pentagon last month suggested a huge influx of weapons was needed to maintain Ukraine’s position as Russia’s air force aimed to change the course of the war, reported the New York Times.
The same report estimated that Ukraine’s air defense capabilities would be “completely reduced” by May 23, which would strain defense systems in the country.
Ukrainian pilots have urged US Congress to deliver fourth-generation warplanes, with two pilots making an in-person appeal for delivery of advanced warplanes.
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“They are sending their attack jets and low-flying helicopters across the front lines to attack our war fighters in the trenches,” explained a pilot identified only by his “Juice” call sign during his June roll call. 2022. “We have to fight back, we have to intercept them. We have to save the lives of our citizens and ground troops.”
Around the same time, Colonel Rob Swertfager of the California Air National Guard said that Ukrainian pilots were “100%” capable of flying fourth generation aircraft.
“The Ukrainian Air Force has the pilot corps to fly these types of advanced aircraft,” Colonel Rob Swertfager said. “Ukrainian pilots are fantastic. I have flown with all air forces in Europe, especially their regional partners.
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“Ukrainians are so underrated and underrated. This is exactly why I think they are winning the war because everyone underestimated the fact that they were so much better than anyone credited them with.”
Fox News Digital’s Caitlin McFall and Fox News’ Kaitlin Sprague contributed to this report.