The Biden administration is willing to host training on F-16 fighter jets in the United States for Ukrainian pilots if additional capacity is needed, the Pentagon told CBS News
“The U.S. is prepared to support the training effort in coordination with the coalition, and is willing to host training for Ukrainian pilots within the U.S. if the capacity of training is reached in Europe,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said in a statement.
Denmark and the Netherlands areon fighter jets, after President Biden gave the green light in May for European allies to provide training on F-16s. Since then, the U.S. has deferred to Denmark and the Netherlands on plans.
Two U.S. officials told CBS News on Thursday that the Biden administration gave Denmark and the Netherlands assurances that the U.S. would expedite third-party transfer requests of F-16s so that Ukraine receives the jets once training is complete.
A State Department spokesperson said the intention is for Ukraine to take full advantage of its new capabilities as soon as the first set of pilots completes their training.
The Pentagon has said before that the F-16s are meant to help Ukraine in the long-term, and that training led by the coalition was not meant to help with Ukraine’s current counteroffensive.
The Biden administration, saying air defense and ammunition were more needed for the current fight. Eventually, the administration overcame its reluctance just as it did with other weapons, like Abrams tanks.
Even though the administration has now approved training on the F-16s, it will still likely take some time for the jets to make a difference for Ukraine.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this summer that if the goal was to match or surpass Russian airpower, it will take billions of dollars and significant time.
“That’s going to take years to train the pilots, years to do the maintenance and sustainment, years to generate that degree of financial support to do that,” Milley said at a news conference in July.