This Tuesday, August 22, the US authorities said that they are only ready to take over the training of Ukrainian pilots in the handling of F-16 fighter jets if the European programs are not able to complete the whole to meet the need that I received from Kiev.
This was announced by Pentagon deputy spokeswoman Sabrina Singh at a press conference in Washington, stating that the “condition” for US participation was that the European training programs were “complete”.
“We are open to training pilots when the training programs in Europe are completed, that is the prerequisite. Denmark and the Netherlands lead the training. So if they don’t have the opportunity to train as many pilots as Ukraine wants to send, we will help them,” Singh said.
However, Singh pointed out that Ukraine has yet to determine the exact number of pilots who will receive this training. The prerequisite for this is “good” knowledge of English, which “also takes time”.
Equipped with modern Western systems, these fighter jets will “not only restore a horribly depleted inventory” but also help Kiev “close the performance gap with the most advanced aircraft in the Russian Armed Forces”.
A Ukrainian aviation spokesman, Yuriy Ignat, said Monday they need 128 fighter jets to replace their aging fleet, as well as training and transport planes.
These fighters will allow “to respond to different challenges and hit different targets, especially aircraft, ground targets and targets in deep enemy lines,” he said in an interview with Radio Liberty Ukraine.
A limited military weight
Experts interviewed by AFP believe these fighters will not allow Ukraine to control airspace, which has not been dominated by either side since the war began.
In March, the US Congressional Research Service warned that fighter jets “have not yet played a critical role in the conflict, nor should they, given Ukrainian and Russian capabilities.”
According to him, “both camps deployed advanced air defense systems that limited the impact” of aviation in combat. The aim of both sides is to deny access – to prevent the enemy from using the skies – rather than to achieve a dominance that would be both costly and uncertain.
Neither force “is capable of gaining air supremacy without unmasking a large part of their fleets, perhaps all of them in the case of Ukraine,” adds Ivan Klyszcz.
Finally, the question of the political implications of this donation remains. “I see it primarily as a political signal. “It is another stage in the strengthening of western military aid,” says Admiral Pascal Ausseur, director general of the French Foundation for Strategic Studies in the Mediterranean (FMES).
During his tour of northern Europe this weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky received official confirmation from his Danish and Dutch partners that they would be abandoning dozens of their F-16s, the long-awaited fighter jets that Kiev is confident can meet fate of the war finally change in their favor.
The delivery of these US-made fighter jets, the first of which are expected to reach Ukrainian hangars in early 2024, will coincide with the training of Ukrainian pilots in Denmark and the Netherlands.