Training Ukrainian pilots to fly American-made F-16 fighter jets “will dramatically improve our army in the sky”, President Zelenskyy said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed US President Joe Biden’s decision to support the training of Ukrainian pilots on American-made F-16 fighter jetsclaiming that it would “dramatically improve our army in the sky”.
Describing plans to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jet fighters as a “historic decision”, Zelenskyy said he would discuss details with Biden when they meet at the G7 summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. – the last international trip of the Ukrainian leader. , which was confirmed on Saturday.
“I intend to discuss the practical implementation of this decision at the #G7 summit in Hiroshima”, Zelenskyy said in a tweet.
Biden told G7 leaders on Friday that Washington was supporting joint allied training programs for Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16 fighter jets, senior US officials told Reuters news agency.
I salute the historic decision of the United States and @POTUS to support an international coalition of fighter jets. This will greatly improve our army in the sky. I intend to discuss the concrete implementation of this decision in #G7 Hiroshima summit.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 19, 2023
Zelenskyy has been calling for the supply of advanced fighter jets for months for supporting Ukraine’s defenses against Russia invasion. But the Ukrainian leader had so far been shunned by his Western allies who feared supplying Ukraine with advanced offensive weapons would be met with escalation by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the spread of the virus. war in Europe.
Now, as Ukraine has upgraded its air defenses with a host of Western-supplied anti-aircraft systems and prepares to launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces, officials believe fighter jets could come in handy. in Ukraine’s battle against Moscow and essential for long- term security.
Poland and Slovakia handed over 27 ex-MiG-29s to Ukraine.
Al Jazeera’s John Psaropoulos reports air defense experts say American-made F-16 fighter jets give Ukraine an advantage on the Russian Air Force, but only if combined with powerful missiles and targeting information, which the West should also provide.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his country would work with the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark “to give Ukraine the combat air capability it needs”.
Denmark also said it would help train Ukrainians to fly F-16s, the country’s defense minister said after Washington announced it would support such a move.
Acting Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said his country “will now be able to move forward with a collective contribution to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s.” Denmark will make it a priority to work with its allies to support the program, he said, welcoming Biden’s decision to endorse the plan.
Lund Poulsen did not specify whether Denmark would be among the countries delivering the fighter jets to Ukraine. The Danish Air Force has about 40 F-16s, of which about 30 are operational. It recently began taking delivery of the most advanced F-35 fighters.
Ukraine, which has no Western-designed jets, says the F-16s are far more effective than the Soviet-era fighters it currently deploys.
The fighter training will take place in Europe and will take months, US officials told Reuters news agency. US officials have estimated the fastest time needed for training and delivery of the F-16s at around 18 months.
Biden’s green light for F-16 training is the latest change from the US administration as it moves to arm Ukraine with more advanced and deadlier weapons, following previous decisions by the US administration. send HIMAR rocket launcher systems, Patriots air defense systems and Abrams tanks.
The United States insisted it was sending weapons to Ukraine to defend itself and discouraged Ukraine’s attacks on Russian territory.
G7 leaders also used the first day of their summit on Friday to deploy a new wave of sanctions against Moscow as well as plans to strengthen the effectiveness of existing financial sanctions intended to limit Putin’s war effort.
“Our support for Ukraine will not waver,” G7 leaders said in a statement released after closed-door meetings.
They promised “to unite against Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine”.
“Russia started this war and can end this war,” they said.