No F-16s for Ukraine, Only Pilot Training, says Pentagon

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  • 04:19 AM, May 24, 2023
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No F-16s for Ukraine, Only Pilot Training, says Pentagon
Pentagon Press Secretary U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder

F-16s fighters will not be available to Ukraine in its counter-offensive against Russia even as NATO states have approved a plan to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the U.S-made fighter jets.

Today, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder explained in further detail that the training, and any eventual transfer of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine is meant to support mid- and long-term defense needs, rather than defense in the short term for an expected counter-offensive against Russian forces.

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

Earlier, European nations such as Norway which are planning to get rid of their F-16s as they upgrade to the more competent F-35 jets, have politely declined Kyiv’s request to donate their F-16s to help fight Russia.

Right now, no number of F-16s, any indication of where those aircraft will come from, or when they will be delivered, has been revealed. What has been revealed, however, is that the U.S. will participate with partners and allies in training Ukrainian pilots on how to use the aircraft.

"That training will take place outside of Ukraine at sites in Europe," Ryder said. "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."

Related news: Training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16s Commences in Poland, other European Countries

For some time, F-16s were not on the table for Ukraine. But recently, the U.S. agreed that partner nations can train Ukrainians on use of the aircraft. At the last Ukraine Defense Contact Group in April, Ryder said, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III received several requests from countries who wanted U.S. permission to train Ukrainians on the F-16.

No F-16s for Ukraine, Only Pilot Training, says Pentagon
F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 aircraft is an American weapon system, and in the same way that nations who want the F-16 must work with the U.S. to acquire it, foreign military sales agreements also mean that those who own the F-16 must seek permission from the U.S. before they transfer those aircraft to other nations.

Training on the F-16, Ryder said, might begin in the next few weeks or months, though he couldn’t yet say exactly who would be doing the training, where — besides in Europe — that the training would happen, or where the aircraft required for training would come from. He did say the U.S. would be involved, however.

"As a U.S.-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," he said. "We'll have much more to follow in the days ahead."

Since the very first meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in April 2022, the DOD has said the focus is not just on Ukraine's immediate defense needs — but its long-term defense needs. The F-16 training and any eventual transfer of aircraft to Ukraine, will be part of that long-term support plan.

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