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US still denies jets to Ukraine, but trains pilots in Arizona

Mar 06, 2023

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The United States and its Western allies have repeatedly shot down any request from Ukraine to send fighter jets. In addition to pilot training, ground crews also require extensive training to maintain the aircraft, and Ukraine’s airfields aren’t suited to operate modern Western fighters.

However, like tanks and air defense systems, Ukraine thinks it’s just a matter of time before its request for Western fighter jets is granted. Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov predicted last week his country will be given three types of fighter jets, and one will become the main fighter for Ukraine’s air force.

Ukraine’s confidence it will receive jets goes beyond words. The country is going to great lengths to improve the infrastructure at its airbases to accommodate Western aircraft. The three most likely contenders to be sent to Ukraine are the French-made Rafale and Mirage fighters, and the U.S.-made F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The F-16 is viewed by most military analysts as the best choice to send to Ukraine. It’s a multirole aircraft with air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities. F-16s are also widely available across NATO countries in Europe. More than 4000 Falcons have been built, and there are 512 F-16s in active service by Europe’s NATO allies.

Publicly, the U.S. and its allies continue to say Ukraine doesn’t need fighter jets right now. However, there are also two Ukrainian pilots in Arizona this week, training on an F-16 simulator. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called it a “familiarization event” and said it’s part of the “routine dialogue” between the U.S. and Ukrainian militaries.

As part of the training, the pilots are being evaluated on their skill level and how long it might take to train Ukrainian pilots to fly modern fighter jets built by Western nations. The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told the House Armed Services Committee last week it would take 18 months to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s.

The United Kingdom expanded its training program of Ukrainian soldiers to include fighter pilots and marines in February. Poland said it’s also willing to train pilots.

Ukrainian air force spokesman Col. Yuriy Ignat said the country has a list of pilots ready to be trained on Western fighter jets, and a budget of $100 million to pay for their training. Most of the fighter jets the Ukrainian air force flies now are Soviet-era MiGs.

Russia, predictably, continues to call any effort to supply Ukraine Western fighter jets a “red line,” and said there would be global consequences if Ukraine did get Western jets.

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THE U.S. AND ITS WESTERN ALLIES HAVE REPEATEDLY SHOT DOWN ANY REQUEST FROM UKRAINE TO SEND FIGHTER JETS. IN ADDITION TO PILOT TRAINING, GROUND CREWS ALSO REQUIRE EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO MAINTAIN THE AIRCRAFT, AND UKRAINE’S AIRFIELDS AREN’T SUITED TO OPERATE MODERN WESTERN FIGHTERS.

HOWEVER, LIKE TANKS AND LONG-RANGE AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS, UKRAINE THINKS IT’S JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE ITS REQUEST FOR WESTERN FIGHTER JETS IS GRANTED. UKRAINE’S DEFENSE MINISTER OLEKSII RENIKOV PREDICTED LAST WEEK HIS COUNTRY WILL BE GIVEN THREE TYPES OF FIGHTER JETS, AND ONE WILL BECOME THE MAIN FIGHTER FOR UKRAINE’S AIR FORCE.

UKRAINE’S CONFIDENCE IT WILL RECEIVE JETS GOES BEYOND WORDS. THE COUNTRY IS GOING TO GREAT LENGTHS TO IMPROVE THE INFRASTRUCTURE AT ITS AIRBASES TO ACCOMODATE WESTERN AIRCRAFT. THE THREE MOST LIKELY CONTENDERS TO BE SENT TO UKRAINE ARE THE FRENCH MADE RAFALE AND MIRAGE FIGHTERS, AND THE U.S. MADE F-16 FIGHTING FALCON.

THE F-16 IS VIEWED BY MOST MILITARY ANALYSTS AS THE BEST CHOICE TO SEND TO UKRAINE. IT’S A MULTIROLE AIRCRAFT WITH AIR-TO-AIR AND AIR-TO-GROUND CAPABILITIES. F-16S ARE ALSO WIDELY AVAILABLE ACROSS NATO COUNTRIES IN EUROPE. MORE THAN 4000 FALCONS HAVE BEEN BUILT, AND THERE ARE 512 F-16S IN ACTIVE SERVICE BY EUROPE’S NATO ALLIES.

PUBLICLY, THE U.S. AND ITS ALLIES CONTINUE TO SAY UKRAINE DOESN’T NEED FIGHTER JETS RIGHT NOW. HOWEVER, THERE ARE ALSO TWO UKRAINIAN PILOTS IN ARIZONA RIGHT NOW, TRAINING ON AN F-16 SIMULATOR. U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY LLOYD AUSTIN CALLED IT A “FAMILIARIZATION EVENT” AND SAID IT’S PART OF THE ROUTINE DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE U.S AND UKRAINIAN MILITARIES.

AS PART OF THE TRAINING, THE PILOTS ARE BEING EVALUATED ON THEIR SKILL LEVEL AND HOW LONG IT MIGHT TAKE TO TRAIN UKRAINIAN PILOTS TO FLY MODERN FIGHTER JETS BUILT BY WESTERN NATIONS. THE UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY SAID IT WOULD TAKE 18 MONTHS TO TRAIN UKRAINIAN PILOTS ON F-16s.

THE UNITED KINGDOM EXPANDED ITS TRAINING PROGRAM OF UKRAINIAN SOLDIERS TO INCLUDE FIGHTER PILOTS IN FEBRUARY. POLAND SAID IT’S ALSO WILLING TO TRAIN PILOTS.

A UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE SPOKESPERSON SAID THE COUNTRY HAS A LIST OF PILOTS READY TO BE TRAINED ON WESTERN FIGHTER JETS, AND A BUDGET OF $100 MILLION TO PAY FOR THEIR TRAINING.  MOST OF THE FIGHTER JETS THE UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE FLIES NOW ARE SOVIET ERA MIGs.

RUSSIA, PREDICTABLY, CONTINUES TO CALL ANY EFFORT TO SUPPLY UKRAINE WESTERN FIGHTER JETS A RED LINE AND SAID THERE WOULD BE GLOBAL CONSEQUENCES IF UKRAINE DID GET WESTERN JETS.

FOR MORE ON THE DEBATE OVER WESTERN JETS AND OTHER WEAPONS BEING SENT TO UKRAINE, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS DOT COM, WHERE YOU’LL ALWAYS FIND THE UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACTS.


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