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Ukraine pilots to arrive in U.S. for F-16 fighter jet training next month

A small number of Ukrainian pilots and support personnel will arrive in the U.S. next month for F-16 fighter jet training, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

The group will start supplemental English-language training in Texas at Lackland Air Force Base in September and then in October head to Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona for training on F-16s, Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said at a news briefing.

The training in the U.S. is expected to run concurrently with a program led by Denmark and the Netherlands in Europe. Last week, the Pentagon said it would host training in the U.S. if capacity was met in Europe but officials have since decided it’s faster to go ahead and offer up training.

“We know that as the Danes and the Dutch prepare to train those pilots, that at a certain point in time in the future, capacity will be reached. So preemptively, acknowledging that and leaning forward in order to assist with this effort is the impetus for why we’re doing this now,” Ryder said.

The announcement comes after the Biden administration gave assurances last week that the U.S. would expedite transfers of F-16 jets to Ukraine once training is complete. The Ukrianians for months have been asking for the jets to help in their fight against Russia’s invasion.

President Biden in May said he would greenlight F-16s for Ukraine for its long-term defense. The Pentagon has maintained that the fighter jets are not meant for the country’s counteroffensive.

Ryder on Thursday did not give a timeline for how long training would take because it will depend on each individual pilot’s skills, but he said that, in general, for American pilots already fluent in English, training can take up to eight months.

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