US ready to train Ukrainian F-16 pilots, if needed

Netherlands and Denmark announce their intentions to make F-16 aircraft available to Ukraine.

Last week, in a letter from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to counterparts in Europe, the U.S. signaled its willingness to approve the third-party transfer of U.S.-made F-16 aircraft to Ukraine.

Both the Netherlands and Denmark have announced their intentions to make F-16 aircraft from their own fleets available to Ukraine.

During a briefing Friday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said U.S. approval for the transfer would come after consultation with Congress and after completion of training for Ukrainian pilots on the aircraft.

During a discussion today with the Pentagon press corps, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh clarified some of what would need to happen for that approval to come.

“In order for the third-party transfer to be completed, there are certain criteria that have to be met, including the English language training [and] other things like logistics on the ground,” she said. “So once that criteria [are] met, we’ll be in a position to authorize the transfer.”

The U.S. would be willing to participate in the training of Ukrainian pilots, Singh said, if there were more Ukrainian pilots in need of training than what the Europeans are able to handle.

“[We’re] open to training existing pilots if capacity is reached in Europe,” Singh said. “That’s the condition. So, if Denmark and the Netherlands are taking the lead on training, if they just do not have the capacity … to train as many pilots as Ukraine wants to send or plans to send, then we will … help train stateside.”

The Ukrainian pilots will need to go though “significant English-language training,” to be ready to fly the F-16, and that will take some time, Singh said. Additionally, the total number of pilots who will need training will be determined by the Ukrainians.

“Ukraine will be the one, and I think it is still putting together how many pilots they have that are going to be able to be trained,” she said. “I don’t have those numbers yet.”

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