The US has approved the shipment of Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets from the Netherlands and Denmark to Ukraine as soon as the first batch of Ukrainian pilots complete training, which won’t happen until next year.
A US official told Reuters on Thursday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken provided the approval in a letter to Danish and Dutch officials.
“I am writing to express the United States’ full support for both the transfer of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and for the training of Ukrainian pilots by qualified F-16 instructors,” the letter reads.
Blinken added that the approval would allow Ukraine to take “full advantage of its new capabilities as soon as the first set of pilots complete their training.”
The Washington Post recently reported that the first round of training will only involve six Ukrainian pilots. They are taking four months of English classes in the UK, followed by six months of combat training that is scheduled to start in January.
A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman has said Kyiv has given up hope that it will be able to use F-16s against Russian forces this year. While Ukrainian officials have been demanding the fighter jets, US officials have downplayed their effectiveness, saying they won’t make much of a difference due to Russia’s extensive air defenses.