Pentagon will train Ukrainians to fly F-16 jets, but warns ‘there are no magic weapons’
The Pentagon announced the U.S. military will be helping Ukraine learn how to operate F-16 fighter jets.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed Thursday that Ukraine is receiving training for the use of F-16s in aerial combat. However, defense officials cautioned that catching Ukraine up on the aircraft technology will not be a “magic” fix to the war.
“There are no magic weapons,” said Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He added, “The Russians have a thousand fourth and fifth-generation fighters, so if you’re going to contest Russia in the air, you’re going to need a substantial amount of fourth and fifth-generation fighters.”
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Austin told the press that more than simply learning how to use the planes, Ukrainian military personnel will need to learn how to maintain the aircraft and sustain their use with ammunition and supplies.
Austin claimed the U.S. military is already receiving assistance in the initiative from the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and Poland.
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“We expect more countries to join this important initiative,” Austin said.
The defense secretary went on to call the initiative “an important example of our long-term commitment to Ukraine security.”
The Pentagon’s comments mark the culmination of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s so-called “fighter jet coalition” — a push to marshal resources from the nation’s allies and build out their air force capabilities.
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Zelenskyy visited the United Kingdom earlier this month, negotiating further military support with the nation’s leader. Zelenskyy met with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Chequers, the leader’s official country residence.
The U.K. government has said the country will not provide aircraft for battle, but it has committed to help train Ukrainian pilots.
“[Ukrainians] need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year,” the prime minister said.
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Last week, President Biden had a similarly productive meeting with Zelenskyy.
President Biden informed his fellow G7 leaders in Japan that the U.S. will be helping train Ukrainian pilots on high-tech, modern aircraft — the latest member of the loosely-defined “coalition.”
“I welcome the historic decision of the United States and POTUS to support an international fighter jet coalition,” Zelenskyy said on social media.