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European allies will unite to train Ukrainians on F-16s: Pentagon chief

25.05.2023 23:45
A group of European allies including Poland is working with the United States to develop a coordinated programme to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, the US secretary of defence has said.
American-made F-16 fighter jets.
American-made F-16 fighter jets.PAP/Jakub Kaczmarczyk

Lloyd Austin made the announcement at a news conference at the Pentagon on Thursday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

The US defence secretary spoke to the media after a virtual meeting of the so-called Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which brings together defence leaders from more than 40 countries supporting Ukraine’s military needs to discuss ongoing support for Kyiv's war effort against Russia's invasion, according to officials. 

Poland part of US-led plan to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s

Austin said that the Netherlands and Denmark were working with the United States on the plan to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 jets, and that Poland, Belgium, Norway and Portugal had already “offered to contribute to the training,” the AP news agency reported.

The Pentagon chief added that the allies would set up a fund so that other nations could contribute to the overall effort, according to the AP.

Austin said: “We expect more countries to join this important initiative.” 

He described the training as “an important example of our long-term commitment to Ukraine security.”

At the same time, the Pentagon chief said that Ukraine needed above all air defence systems to fight off Russian attacks, the PAP news agency reported.

Earlier in the day, Austin said he hoped that training for Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 fighter jets would begin “in the coming weeks,” the AP reported. 

F-16 aircraft for Ukraine

On Tuesday, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said his country was ready to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.

Last Friday, US President Joe Biden told fellow Group of Seven (G7) leaders that the United States would allow Western allies to provide American-made F-16s and other advanced fighter jets to help Ukraine fight the Russian invasion.

That decision, announced at a G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, marked a major boost for Kyiv’s war effort against Russian aggression, according to news outlets.

Thursday was day 456 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: PAP, defense.gov, Associated Press