The U.S. approved sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine from the Netherlands and Denmark amid the ongoing war with Russia after the pilot training program is completed, an official said
Ukraine has actively sought the U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to help it counter Russian air superiority.
Washington gave Denmark and the Netherlands official assurances that the United States will expedite approval of all necessary third-party transfer requests of F-16s to Ukraine so that Ukraine will get F-16s when the pilots are trained.
Denmark and the Netherlands, the two countries leading the training coalition, had recently asked for those assurances.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent letters to his Danish and Dutch counterparts assuring them that the requests would be approved, the official said.
“I am writing to express the United States’ full support for both the transfer of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and for the training of Ukrainian pilots by qualified F-16 instructors,” Blinken said in a letter to the two officials, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
Blinken said, “It remains critical that Ukraine is able to defend itself against ongoing Russian aggression and violation of its sovereignty.”
He said the approval of the third party requests would allow Ukraine to take “full advantage of its new capabilities as soon as the first set of pilots complete their training.”
U.S. President Joe Biden had endorsed training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16s in May but no timing for the supply of war planes had been given so far.
The F-16 is made by Lockheed Martin.
Earlier on Thursday, Ukraine’s air forces spokesman Yuri Ihnat said his country has given up hope of receiving U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets this year, after spending months pressing Western allies to deliver the advanced aircraft to defend against Russia’s invasion.
“It is obvious that we won’t be able to defend Ukraine this autumn and winter with the F-16s,” air force spokesman Ihnat told Ukrainian television.
“There was great hope for this aircraft to become part of our air defense and protect us against missile and drone terror from Russia,” he said.
One bit of progress, at least, was that Ukrainian pilots and technicians could start training on the jets “in the near future,” Ihnat was quoted as saying by Ukrainian media.