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26 Feb, 2024 01:37

Ukraine doesn’t have enough trained F-16 pilots – White House

The US-made fighter planes would not have been a game-changer for Kiev’s doomed counteroffensive, a top adviser has said
Ukraine doesn’t have enough trained F-16 pilots – White House

The early delivery of US fighter jets would not have changed the course of Ukraine’s failed summer counteroffensive because there were not enough trained pilots to fly them, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said.

Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, Sullivan disagreed with the narrative that the White House did not provide enough “war-fighting equipment” for Ukraine to succeed on the front line.

“The idea that we did not mobilize a massive quantity of resources and capabilities to deliver to Ukrainians simply doesn’t wash,” Sullivan said in response to a question on whether Washington’s incremental approach to deliveries of advanced weaponry was to blame for Ukraine’s lack of progress on the battlefield.

“If you look at some total of what the United States provided to Ukraine in this fight it is an incredible quantity of material delivered at speed, at scale outpacing the expectation,” he argued.

“There are additional capabilities that Ukrainians have looked for, F-16 being one of them,” he continued, explaining that while the US is prepared to provide the jets, the real challenge Ukraine faces is that “there aren’t many pilots to be able to pilot those aircraft.”

Kiev has repeatedly asked for Western fighter jets, saying they are needed to repel Russian air attacks.

In August, the US allowed Denmark and the Netherlands to donate F-16s to Ukraine, with the first deliveries expected this year. NATO member states also agreed to form a coalition to help train Ukrainians to fly the Western-made aircraft.

Moscow has warned that the move would be a dangerous escalation, given that some F-16 modifications can carry nuclear bombs, and vowed to destroy the jets in Ukraine if they arrive.