Two Ukrainian pilots are currently in the US for a training assessment to fly American fighter jets including F-16s.
F-16 planes are thought to be the F-16 planes Ukraine needs most to defend against Russia’s invasion on the skies.
President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zilenskyy has stated to the Western nations that the country requires jets in order to fight the next stage.
The US appears to be trying to help the Ukrainians at a military base near Tucson, Arizona.
Two congressional officials and a senior US official said that the two pilots were being evaluated and their skills assessed by simulators.
The training was described by a US defense official as a “familiarization event”.
This program aims to improve pilot skills and determine how long it would take to complete a good training program.
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“We haven’t made the decision”
Officials made it clear that the Ukrainians would not fly an actual aircraft, but rather a simulator that simulates different types of aircraft.
Officials also stated that the presence of the pilots in Ukraine does not indicate that there have been any updates regarding the US decision to supply fighter jets to Ukraine.
Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense, stated that “Since the decision has not been made to provide F-16s, and neither have our allies or partners, it doesn’t make sense for them to begin to train on a system which they may never receive.”
According to Mr Kahl’s prediction, the country would require between 50 and 80 F-16s in order to replenish Ukraine’s air force. The cost for this will be PS9.1bn ($11bn), and depends on the type and number of aircraft delivered.
It is expected that a training program will take approximately 18 months if it goes ahead. This time period would be the same length of time as it would take to send older, refurbished jets to Ukraine.
The construction of new F-16s from scratch could take up to three to six more years.
Although there are no plans to expand the pilots beyond those in Tucson, an official said that they were “not closing off future opportunities”.
The US and its allies have been informed by Ukraine that there are fewer than 20 pilots available to fly fighter jet training.
During an interview with ABC last month, President Joe Biden refused repeated requests by President Zelenskyy of Ukraine to send 128 aircraft, especially F-16s. He claimed that the country doesn’t need them at the moment.
Officials have asked for additional aid to combat Iranian-made drone attacks on Ukraine. These attacks led to about 4.5 million Ukrainians losing their power at the end of 2013.
Critics warn that the Ukrainian air force, despite having US fighter jets to match, would not be able to compete with Russia’s. Russia currently has around 500 aircraft.