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US to begin coaching Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets

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The US has will start to coach Ukrainian fighter-jet pilots in Arizona this autumn, the Pentagon stated on Thursday.

The pilots are anticipated to begin coaching on the Morris Air Nationwide Guard Base in Tucson in October after finishing English language schooling in September at Lackland Air Power Base in San Antonio, Texas.

“The US will quickly start coaching Ukrainians to fly and preserve F-16 fighter plane in help of the worldwide effort to develop and strengthen Ukraine’s long-term defences,” Pentagon press secretary Patrick Ryder stated.

Ryder stated the US didn’t but have a particular quantity for what number of pilots can be included however stated the Pentagon anticipates the coaching would contain a number of pilots and dozens of crew members to take care of the superior fighter jets. Ukraine will choose the pilots who take part.

American officers had indicated they’d be open to coaching Ukrainian pilots inside the US if European capability was not ample. Ryder stated the US determination was a pre-emptive transfer geared toward ensuring that the worldwide programme can function as wanted.

Kyiv’s European allies purpose to ship F-16s to Ukraine as soon as the coaching is full. The US has stated it could help the transfers however wouldn’t be supplying its personal plane.

“We’re speaking months, not weeks,” Ryder stated, including that the plane have been meant to help Ukraine’s long-term safety fairly than the present counteroffensive.

The US programme is geared toward complementing different coaching efforts in Europe, together with these by Denmark and the Netherlands. Each international locations pledged on Sunday to donate F-16s to Ukraine and Norway on Thursday stated it could additionally present the fighter jets.

Denmark started coaching eight Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s earlier this week.

A part of the American effort might be geared toward assessing particular person pilots’ ability to assist decide how lengthy the coaching will final.

F-16 coaching for American pilots with out a lot expertise sometimes lasts eight months, whereas extra skilled pilots typically practice for 5 months or so.

“So much goes to rely on these particular person pilots,” Ryder stated.

US president Joe Biden spoke to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday, the White Home later confirmed.

The White Home stated Biden “reiterated the US dedication to help Ukraine’s defence in opposition to Russian aggression for so long as it takes,” and stated the 2 leaders mentioned the plans for Ukrainian pilots to be educated on F-16s.

Further reporting by Lauren Fedor

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