The United States took another step in the slow walk toward all-out war with Russia as multiple officials confirmed two Ukrainian pilots had arrived stateside for an assessment on their potential to operate advanced aircraft that could include future delivery of F-16s.
Following a parade of U.S. officials visiting Kyiv to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to mark the one year anniversary of the invasion by Russian forces that included President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and a contingent of House Republicans, two pilots from the war torn nation reportedly arrived at a military base in Tucson, Arizona.
Officials confirmed to NBC News that the pilots would utilize a simulator capable of mimicking an array of aircraft including F-16s to assess how long it would take to train them in their operation. As many as a dozen Ukrainian pilots were approved to participate and one administration official said, “The program is about assessing their abilities as pilots so we can better advise them on how to use capabilities they have and we have given them.”
Two Ukrainian 🇺🇦 pilots are in USA for an assessment to see how long it would take to train Ukrainians to fly attack aircraft, including F-16s
US 🇺🇸 has approved up to 10 more Ukrainian pilots to arrive in US as early as next month for further assessment on attack aircraft (NBC) pic.twitter.com/lJRu2ltG6U
— Ukraine Battle Map (@ukraine_map) March 5, 2023
CNN reported likewise and noted that an official stated, “The familiarization event is essentially a discussion between the Air Force personnel and an observation of how the US Air Force operates.”
“This event allows us to better help Ukrainian pilots become more effective pilots and better advise them on how to develop their own capabilities,” the official went on as it was stressed this was not to be considered a training program. “The pilots will not be flying any platforms during this event but they will be using a simulator during portions of their visit.”
A defense official referred to the program as “a routine activity as part of our military-to-military dialogue with Ukraine.”
Confirmation of the program followed ongoing commitments from the United States to include M1A1 Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles along with hundreds of millions of dollars more in aid that left the ever-demanding Zelensky calling for the sacrifice of American military forces for his country as he said, “The U.S. will have to send their sons and daughters exactly the same way as we are sending our sons and daughters to war. And they will have to fight because it’s nature that we’re talking about. And they will be dying, God forbid, because it’s a horrible thing.”
As with the delivery of the tanks that could take as long as a year, Zelensky has requested F-16s, to which Biden has thus far not assented to send, which would take as long as 18 to 24 months to deliver in the case of older, refurbished models. Committing new aircraft would stretch the timeline out to three to six years.
According to under secretary of defense for policy Colin Kahl when speaking before the House Armed Services Committee, “So you don’t actually save yourself time by starting the training early in our assessment. And since we haven’t made the decision to provide F-16s and neither have our allies and partners, it doesn’t make sense to start to train them on a system they may never get.”
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), House Foreign Affairs Committee chair who led the GOP trip to Ukraine that included Reps. Keith Self (TX), Jake Ellzey (TX), Darrell Issa (CA) and Max Miler (OH), appeared on ABC News’ “This Week” last Sunday and voiced the support of “high-ranking military officials” to send more resources to the nation.
“They’re all in favor of us putting not only F-16s in but longer-range artillery, to take out the Iranian drones in Crimea,” McCaul said.
However, a defense official contended to NBC News that the lengthy timeline to supply aircraft to Ukraine coupled with the success of using already available air defenses doesn’t justify a new course and asked, “why would we change tactics now?”
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