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Ukraine F-16 training to begin ‘weeks or months’ in Europe

The US government has confirmed F-16 fighter jet training for Ukrainian pilots will begin in “weeks or months” in an as-yet undecided European country.

The US government has confirmed F-16 fighter jet training for Ukrainian pilots will begin in “weeks or months” in an as-yet undecided European country.

The Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig Gen Pat Ryder confirmed the additional details during a US Department of Defense announcement published on 23 March

US President Joe Biden previously stated the US would support an effort with partners and allies to train Ukrainian fighter pilots on the F-16 aircraft, after the G7 Summit held in Japan.

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Brig Gen Ryder said any training and eventual transfer of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine are designed to support mid- and long-term defence needs, and not short-term defence or counter-offence against Russian forces.

“F-16s for Ukraine is about the long-term commitment to Ukraine. These F-16s will not be relevant to the upcoming counter offensive,” he said.

“That training will take place outside of Ukraine at sites in Europe. But in terms of ... when that training will begin, how those jets will be provided, who will provide them, we’re continuing to work with our international partners on that front.

“We’ll be able to start the training within weeks or months in the relatively near term. In terms of deliveries … we’re going to work closely with our allies and our partners on ensuring that the Ukrainian pilots are trained on the F-16, and then at some point in time, well be able to have the actual aircraft.”

Several requests have already been received from countries who request US permission to train Ukrainians on F-16 aircraft, according to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III.

“He subsequently took that matter, introduced it into our national security council policy process as part of a conversation about how we support Ukraine in the mid- to long-term in terms of their defense needs, and there was unanimous agreement that this was something that we should and need to support,” Brig Gen Ryder said.

“As a US-built platform, clearly exportability aspects, technology transfer aspects, are things that we’ll be looking at as well; working with our allies and partners on that front.

“The fight right now is to ensure that they are able to successfully defend themselves while at the same time taking back sovereign territory.

“But we look forward to a long-term relationship with Ukraine in terms of their security assistance needs, and again, with the idea here that they can secure their hard-won gains and deter future aggression by Russia.”

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