Biden approves plan to train Ukraine pilots on F-16 fighter jets: Official

“As the training takes place over the coming months, our coalition of countries participating in this effort will decide when to actually provide jets, how many we will provide, and who will provide them,” the official said.

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A senior Biden administration official said Friday that the US had agreed to support joint efforts with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.

This will help strengthen and improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian Air Force, the official told Al Arabiya English.

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“As the training takes place over the coming months, our coalition of countries participating in this effort will decide when to actually provide jets, how many we will provide, and who will provide them,” the official said.

The training will take place outside Ukraine at sites in Europe and will require months to complete, the official said, adding that they hope to start training in the coming weeks.

So far, the US and its allies have focused on providing Ukraine with the systems, weapons, and training needed for offensive operations planned this spring and summer.

“Discussions about improving the Ukrainian Air Force reflect our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense,” the official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the move, calling it “historic.”

“This will greatly enhance our army in the sky. I count on discussing the practical implementation of this decision at the #G7 summit in Hiroshima,” Zelenskyy said on Twitter.

British PM Rishi Sunak also lauded the announcement “The UK will work together with the USA and the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark to get Ukraine the combat air capability it needs. We stand united,” Sunak tweeted alongside a picture of an F-16.

Despite providing and pledging billions of dollars of economic and military aid to Ukraine, Washington had been opposed to supplying fighter jets to Ukraine.

But European countries, including the UK, have expressed interest and intent in transferring US-made F-16s.

US officials familiar with the discussions previously told Al Arabiya English that they would not stand in the way of training on or transferring European countries’ F-16s.

The most senior Republican senator on Thursday called on Biden to help with the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. “As President Biden meets in Japan with our strongest economic partners, I hope he will build on the West’s support for Ukraine by clearing the way for the transfer of F-16s, long-range fires, and cluster munitions that will help Ukraine win,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

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