U.S. President Joe Biden has voiced his support for a joint effort with G7 allies to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, marking a significant step in bolstering Kyiv’s air power against Russian forces.
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This move, which would involve training taking place in Europe over the coming months, has been met with approval by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who hailed the U.S. commitment.
The training program is set to commence in the coming weeks and is predicted to require 18 months for its completion and the delivery of the F-16s. The jets, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, are being sought by Ukraine as they are far more effective than the country’s current Soviet-era fighters. It is still unclear which countries will participate in this effort and when the jets will be provided.
The news comes amidst Ukraine’s push against invading Russian troops and the country’s bid to fortify its air defenses. However, Western governments have been cautious to ensure they do not leave their own nations vulnerable by supplying excessive equipment or provoking Moscow to escalate the war.
Prime Minister Rutte, in a post on Twitter, welcomed the U.S. decision and assured that “Ukraine can count on the unwavering support of the Netherlands and its international partners.”
Together with my British, Danish and Belgian colleagues we welcome the news that the United States stands ready to approve the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighterjets. The modalities will be worked out in the coming weeks. Ukraine can count on the unwavering support of…
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) May 19, 2023
This backing is further bolstered by pledges from Britain and the Netherlands to aid Ukraine in constructing a “jets coalition”, albeit without any confirmed commitment to provide planes.