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US begins training Ukrainian pilots

Washington’s envoy in Kiev has confirmed the F-16 lessons are underway in Arizona

The Arizona Air National Guard has started training pilots from Ukraine to fly F-16 fighter jets, US ambassador to Kiev Bridget Brink said on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced it would send another $150 million worth of weapons and equipment to the country.

Brink called the training “an essential part of building Ukraine’s air defense” and said the US was “proud” to work with “European partners” to support Kiev. 

Earlier this month, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that Washington would “help lead the coalition” of countries providing F-16s to Ukraine, with “co-leaders” Denmark and the Netherlands. The two countries had launched the F-16 initiative in early July, and received permission from the US to donate their jets to Ukraine in August. Washington has said it would not send any of its own planes to Kiev.

Ukrainian pilots had to finish an English language course before starting flight training. Austin has estimated the first jets would be delivered to Ukraine sometime “next spring.”

The US and its allies are proceeding with the F-16 program despite repeated warnings from Russia calling it an unacceptable escalation, given that the jets can carry nuclear weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any F-16s sent to Ukraine “will burn” just like the other Western hardware.

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Meanwhile, the Pentagon has revealed the contents of the newest package of “security assistance” to Kiev. The list consists mainly of ammunition, starting with rockets for the NASAMS air defense systems and HIMARS rocket artillery, rounds for the 105 and 155 tube artillery, as well as TOW and Javelin anti-tank rockets.

According to the Pentagon, this is the “forty-ninth tranche of equipment to be provided from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021,” – six months prior to the February 2022 escalation of hostilities with Russia.

Thursday’s announcement contained the new White House talking points about how aid to Ukraine is “a smart investment” that strengthens the US military industrial base and creates “highly skilled jobs for the American people.” Since the munitions and equipment came from the Pentagon’s existing stockpiles, however, the purported economic impact would be derived entirely from contracting for their replacement.


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