The Arizona Air National Guard has commenced training Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets, according to US ambassador to Kiev Bridget Brink. Additionally, the Pentagon announced that it would be sending $150 million worth of weapons and equipment to Ukraine to enhance its military capabilities.
Brink emphasized the significance of this training, stating that it is a crucial aspect of strengthening Ukraine’s air defense. She also expressed the United States’ pride in working with European partners to support Kiev. The training program is part of a coalition led by the US, Denmark, and the Netherlands, who have offered F-16s to Ukraine. While the two European countries have already received permission from the US to donate their jets, Washington has decided not to send any of its own planes to Kiev.
Before beginning flight training, Ukrainian pilots were required to complete an English language course. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin estimated that the initial batch of jets would be delivered to Ukraine in the spring of the following year.
Despite Russia’s objection to the F-16 program, citing concerns over the potential deployment of nuclear weapons, the US and its allies remain committed to their support. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any F-16s sent to Ukraine will face destruction similar to other Western military equipment.
In addition to the training program, the Pentagon disclosed a list of equipment that would be part of the new package of security assistance to Ukraine. The assistance includes rockets for the NASAMS air defense systems, HIMARS rocket artillery, rounds for tube artillery, as well as TOW and Javelin anti-tank rockets.
According to the Pentagon, this marks the 49th tranche of equipment to be provided to Ukraine from the Department of Defense inventories since August 2021, preceding the escalation of hostilities with Russia in February 2022. The latest announcement by the White House emphasized that aid to Ukraine is a wise investment that not only strengthens the US military industrial base but also generates highly skilled jobs for Americans. However, since the munitions and equipment are sourced from existing stockpiles, any economic impact would solely come from the need to replace them through contracts.
As Ukraine receives more support from the US and its allies, tensions continue to rise between Russia and the Western powers. Nevertheless, the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities and support its sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression.