Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Saturday that training for Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16 fighter jets should begin next month.
“The designated persons have been identified, the program will be prescribed by the beginning of July, it will be announced, (and) I can optimistically say that training will begin in July already,” Reznikov said, according to Reuters.
The effort to arm Ukraine with F-16s is being led by the Netherlands and Denmark. Both countries, as well as Belgium, are expected to provide Ukraine with the US-made fighter jet but have not made a final commitment.
While President Biden has signed off on the delivery of F-16s from European countries to Ukraine, the US has not committed to sending its own jets. But the Biden administration has not ruled it out, so the US could eventually supply Ukraine with F-16s from Pentagon stockpiles.
It’s also unclear at this point how long the training will take as estimates vary widely from a few months to up to two years. According to Yahoo News, a leaked Air Force document says training Ukrainian pilots could take as little as four months. The estimate is based on the assessment of the skills of two Ukrainian airmen that was done in late February and early March at the Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona.
Ukraine is also eyeing other US-made aircraft and has put in a request with Australia about F/A-18 jets that the Australian air force has retired. According to Australian media, the US is favorable of the idea of Canberra arming Kyiv with the F/A-18 jets.
Russian officials have warned strongly against the US and its allies providing Ukraine with Western-made aircraft, but the Biden administration has brushed off the warnings as it’s no longer as concerned about escalation as it was earlier in the conflict.