Ukraine F-16 Training Approval Will Likely Take Months, US Official Says
U.S. officials must also approve the jet transfers themselves.
LE BOURGET, France—It will likely be months before the United States grants approval for European allies to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, a top U.S. State Department official said.
There is “a lot of discussion ongoing,” and “a lot of work that needs to be done,” Stanley Brown, principal deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, said Monday at the Paris Air Show. “It'll be measured probably in months to get things done versus very quickly.”
The debate over sending Western fighter jets to Ukraine has been in full swing since the early days of the Russian invasion. Since the F-16 is manufactured in the United States, even allies must seek Washington’s permission to offer the jets and related training to other countries.
Last month, President Biden said at the G7 summit in Japan that he would allow U.S. allies to send F-16s to Kyiv. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin subsequently announced that Denmark and the Netherlands would lead the development of an F-16 training program for Ukraine. Last week, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told Reuters that training could begin as soon as this summer.
But Brown appeared to caution against expecting an imminent start..
“Part of this is identifying the training, who's going to do the training, where it's going to take place, a number of things in that regard,” he said. “We're working very hard to complete those things to get them in place. But I don't have a specific timeline.”
There are multiple stages to the F-16 approval process, Brown said. Several third-party transfer requests must be approved, initially for training and then for the aircraft themselves. The specific aircraft that will be transferred have not yet been identified, he said.
“When we look at the F-16 issue, we have to look at it holistically,” Brown said. “It's not just a training of the pilots, but it's a training of maintainers, the entire system so that when the airplanes are delivered, that [they] can actually function with a support base to get that done.”