Pentagon sees Ukrainian F-16s as 'long-term' solution, emphasises training needs
Following the Biden Administration's decision to permit the supply of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine last week, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig Gen Pat Ryder underlined in a press briefing on 23 May that pilot training, and any eventual transfer of aircraft, were intended to support Kyiv's mid- and long-term needs.
'F-16s for Ukraine is about the long-term commitment to Ukraine,' he said. 'These F-16s will not be relevant to the [widely expected] upcoming counter-offensive' against Russian forces.
He reiterated that no firm decisions had been made on the quantity or source of F-16s for Ukraine, but said the US will participate with its partners and allies in training Ukrainian pilots on the aircraft.
'That training will take place outside of Ukraine at sites in Europe,' Ryder noted. 'But in terms of... when that training will begin, how those jets will be provided, who will provide them, we're continuing to work with our international partners on that front.' He also declined to provide any details on the timescale for training to begin.
Ryder added that at the last Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in April, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had received several requests from allied countries who wanted US permission to train Ukrainians on the F-16.'
"He [Austin] subsequently took that matter, introduced it into our National Security Council policy process as part of a conversation about how we support Ukraine in the mid- to long-term in terms of their defence needs, and there was unanimous agreement that this was something that we should and need to support,' Ryder noted.
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