The US Air Force’s chief of staff told Reuters on Wednesday that the US and its allies are starting to examine the possibility of training Ukrainian pilots to fly Western aircraft as part of a long-term plan to support Kyiv’s armed forces.
Ukraine has been seeking F-15 and F-16 fighter jets from the US, but its pilots are only trained to use Soviet-era planes, such as the MiG-29. The US and its NATO allies have said they eventually want Ukraine to be accustomed to Western weaponry as they expect to support the country for years to come.
“You want to build a long-term plan on how do you build their air force and the air force that they’re going to need for the future,” Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. told Reuters.
Later in the day, Brown spoke at the Aspen Security Summit in Colorado, where he expressed support for the idea of training Ukrainian pilots. “I do believe that we have an aspect and a responsibility, like we do with all our allies and partners, to be prepared to train them in various capabilities and capacities,” he said.
Brown stressed that no decision has been made on sending jets and suggested Ukraine could receive aircraft from other Western nations. “There’s US [jets], there’s Gripen out of Sweden, there’s the Eurofighter, there’s [the French] Rafale. So there’s a number of different platforms that could go to Ukraine,” he said, according to Defense One.
The House version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes an amendment that would authorize $100 million for training Ukrainian pilots. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), an ultra-hawk who has repeatedly called for direct US military intervention in the war.