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One step closer. When Ukraine will receive F-16 aircraft

The White House authorized the export of F-16 fighters to Ukraine and supported efforts by partners to train Ukrainian pilots.

After pressure from members of the US Congress and European allies, the Joe Biden administration decided to allow the export of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Such an important decision was also made against the background of the preparation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for a counter-offensive and intensification of Russian air attacks.

John Kirby, National Security Council strategic communications coordinator, declined to comment specifically on Washington’s possibility of sending F-16s, but broadly said the US is looking ahead to “future capabilities” and those needs of the Ukrainian defenders.

Who prompted Biden to make the decision

In the United States of America, the F-16 lobbying campaign for Ukraine was led by lawmakers and congressional staff, which, by the way, is Republican-majority.

“As a bipartisan group of lawmakers, we believe that the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine is necessary to provide Kiev with the air support capabilities needed to fully defend its country from a excuse, Russia’s illegal and brutal aggression, and to ensure the territorial gains necessary to restore its country,” a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday, CNN reported.

Today, the TV channel, citing sources in the White House, reported that on the first day of the G7 summit in Japan, Biden agreed to the congressmen’s proposal and allowed the F-16s to be delivered to Ukraine. Additionally, the US will support efforts to train Ukrainian pilots to fly fourth-generation aircraft, including F-16 fighter jets.

The source also shared with journalists the information that Ukrainian pilots will be trained outside the United States: the training with almost 100% probability will take place in Europe. However, American specialists will take part in the training program for pilots from Ukraine together with European colleagues.

“Coalition of Fighters”

It is expected that while the pilots are being trained, the issue of providing Ukraine with the aircraft requested by Kiev should be resolved, because the so-called “coalition of fighters” has been formed.

The main countries of this union are the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. They are ready to support Ukraine in everything possible – from pilot training to the purchase of F-16 fighter jets. It should be noted that at the beginning of this week, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky made a European tour and after meeting with him a number of Western leaders made strong statements.

In particular, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte said that, in general, his country is ready to transfer these aircraft to Kyiv. The Netherlands could be the F-16 donor, as the country is now replacing them with the F-35. In 2021, the Netherlands wanted to sell about 30 fighters to the private pilot training company Draken International, but the contract fell through.

In this regard, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced earlier this week that London will begin training Ukrainian pilots in the summer, and is also negotiating with other countries to send modern F- 16 fighters in Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France is ready to start training Ukrainian pilots. Belgium is also ready to join the exercises.

Note that Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have surplus fighters that can be sent to the Armed Forces. However, it takes time to make adjustments and maintenance to bring them into working shape.

In this regard, Polish President Andrzej Duda explained why he is not ready to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighters. According to him, Poland has given “almost all” of its MiG-29s to Kyiv and is ready to do more. However, Warsaw has a “relatively small” number of F-16s.

Express the preparation

Another open question is the timing of pilot training. As you know, the average preparation time is 16 weeks. But yesterday, Yahoo News reported that two Ukrainian pilots trained in special simulators exceeded Pentagon expectations for two weeks at a US airbase. Now it is possible to teach them how to fly an F-16 in four months.

The publication states that the Ukrainian pilots, one of whom is qualified on the MiG-29, and the other – on the Su-27, according to the assessment, did not undergo formal training on the F-16, except for a brief introduction. They were then tested in a flight simulator, with “nine simulation runs for a total of 11.5 hours”.

Without preparation and after a demonstration, the Ukrainians successfully landed a fighter jet after an engine failure in an accident and carried out mock attacks based on the parameters transmitted during the flight simulator.

The main training issue identified during the evaluation was that Ukrainian pilots did not like the F-16’s complex avionics that displayed information in English. The pilots’ language abilities were listed as a “problem”, although the reviewers said that within two weeks both Ukrainian pilots had experienced “marked improvement in their English language skills”.

Despite these shortcomings, the report concluded that “Given the current skill set demonstrated by Ukrainian Air Force pilots… four months is a realistic training period.”

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Source: korrespondent

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