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24 May, 2024 00:49

Ukrainian pilots complete F-16 training in US – Politico

The first group of trainees has reportedly finished its preparations at a military base in Arizona
Ukrainian pilots complete F-16 training in US – Politico

Ukraine has moved a step closer to deploying US-made fighter jets against Russian forces after its first batch of pilots completed an F-16 training program in Arizona, according to Politico. 

An undisclosed number of Ukrainian pilots finished their F-16 course at the Arizona Air National Guard Wing in Tucson, the outlet reported on Thursday. Their graduation marks a “crucial first step toward putting modern, American-made fighter jets in Ukrainian skies,” Air National Guard spokesman Erin Hannigan was quoted as saying.

The airmen are now heading to Europe for additional training, Politico added, citing an unidentified person familiar with the situation. Norway, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands have pledged to give Kiev a combined 60 F-16s to aid in the conflict with Russia. 

The original F-16A entered service in the US Air Force in 1980. Some Ukrainian officials have touted the aircraft as a potentially major boost to the country’s military capabilities. However, Politico reported last month that Russia has already developed countermeasures. US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall warned last year that F-16s would not be a “dramatic game-changer” in the Ukraine conflict.

The US-made fighter jets will start arriving in Ukraine in the coming months, beginning with a batch of five F-16s, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said last week.

US President Joe Biden initially refused to allow F-16s to be transferred to Ukraine, citing the potential to trigger a wider conflict with Russia. He relented last year, agreeing to allow the training of Ukrainian pilots and donations of the jets by European allies.

Moscow has warned that Western arms shipments only prolong the bloodshed in the conflict without affecting its outcome. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in March that any F-16s supplied to Kiev would be shot down by Moscow’s forces, noting that the fact that the jet can potentially carry nuclear weapons will be taken into account.

“Of course, if they are used from airfields of third countries, they become a legitimate target for us, wherever they are located,” Putin added.