The House version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was passed Thursday night includes an amendment that would authorize $100 million to train Ukrainian pilots on how to use US warplanes.
Ukraine has been asking the US for F-15s and F-16s, but its pilots are only trained to use Soviet-designed MiG-29s and Sukhoi planes. According to Defense News, it would take about three months to train pilots to fly the F-15s and F-16s at a basic level.
The pilot training amendment was sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), an ultra-hawk who has repeatedly called for direct US military intervention in the war. Kinzinger said the US was ready to start training Ukrainian pilots at the Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, and possibly at another base in Texas.
“There is no doubt to me that when this war ends, Ukraine is going to have to be outfitted with western military equipment. Plus, there’s just no more MiGs left and no more MiG supplies,” Kinzinger said.
So far, the US has not sent any fighter jets to Ukraine and declined a Polish offer to transfer MiG-29s to the Ukrainians earlier in the war. But the Biden administration has shown its willingness to escalate its military aid for Ukraine despite the risk of provoking Moscow.
Ukraine is piling pressure on the US to send more advanced equipment and sent two Ukrainian fighter pilots to Washington as part of their lobbying effort.
It’s not clear if Kinzinger’s amendment will make it to the final version of the NDAA. The Senate still has to pass its version, and then the two chambers have to negotiate the final bill that will head to President Biden’s desk.
The House version of the NDAA authorizes $850.3 billion in military spending, $37 billion more than Biden requested. The Senate is looking to raise it even higher as its version would authorize $858.5 billion.