In a crucial development emphasizing long-term sustainability, the Defense Department has undertaken proactive measures to secure spare parts availability for the soon-to-be-deployed F-16 aircraft in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The initiative aligns with the broader commitment to enhance Ukraine's defense capabilities through the transfer of U.S.-made F-16s, a decision supported by the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway, who have pledged aircraft from their own fleets.
As the U.S. State Department greenlit the third-party transfer of F-16s to Ukraine earlier this year, attention has turned to the critical aspect of sustaining these aircraft once in Ukrainian hands. Ukrainian pilots, integral to the successful integration of F-16s into the fleet, have undergone comprehensive training in both the U.S. and Europe, covering essential aspects of flight operations and maintenance. The Pentagon is already participating in providing training to help ready Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 aircraft.
With the first installation of F-16s on the horizon, the spotlight is on ensuring that these advanced aircraft remain operational through the availability of spare parts.
William A. LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, emphasized the importance of not just delivering the aircraft but also including 90 days' worth of spare parts with any shipment. "Whatever we all deliver to the Ukrainians, provide 90 days of spares, please, please, that's the rule of thumb — 90 days of spares," he said.
The U.S. has committed $44.2 billion in hardware and ammunition since February 2022, underscoring the comprehensive support for Ukraine's defense capabilities.
Addressing the critical role spare parts play in the longevity of military equipment, LaPlante highlighted ongoing efforts to plan and execute the availability of the right spare parts in the right quantities. "That's what we're going through right now ... to make sure it happens," he said. "They'll have enough when they get there. We want ... it to be sustained. And it's oftentimes the thing that is forgotten."
Recognizing the potential risks of grounded F-16s without adequate spare parts, LaPlante reaffirmed the commitment not to let that happen. “Without spares, the F-16s the Ukrainians fly could be grounded in just a few months…. We're not going to let that happen.”
The collaborative efforts extend beyond the Defense Department, involving partners such as the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, emphasizing a collective approach to support Ukraine's long-term defense capabilities.
As industry days are being coordinated with U.S. companies and global partners, the focus is on facilitating discussions on procurement issues, specifically centered around spare parts availability. This collaborative approach ensures that as the international community delivers advanced aircraft, it simultaneously lays the groundwork for a self-sufficient and resilient defense infrastructure for Ukraine over the long term.
Ukraine Begins "In the Air" Training on F-16s
Yuriy Ignat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, was quoted by certain media outlets as saying that Ukrainian soldiers have commenced "in the air" flight training on F-16 jets supplied by Western countries.
"Some pilots are already undergoing air training with an instructor on combat aircraft," Ignat stated during a nationally televised broadcast, according to the outlet. "Everything is going according to plan."