President Biden on Friday told Group of Seven (G-7) leaders that the United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter aircrafts, a senior administration official told The Hill.
The U.S. is hopeful the training can begin in the “coming week,” the official said, and it will require months to complete. It will occur outside Ukraine at sites in Europe.
The countries participating in the effort will decide when to actually provide the jets, how many will be provided and who will provide them, the official said.
The president is in Hiroshima, Japan, for the G-7 summit, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is reportedly expected to make an in-person appearance this weekend.
The F-16 is a fourth-generation aircraft that is far superior to the Soviet-era jets Ukraine is operating. Training Ukrainians on the aircraft is an effort to further strengthen and improve the capabilities of the country’s air force and is part of the U.S.’s long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense, according to the official.
“Together with the short-term and medium-term security assistance packages we are providing Ukraine, President Biden is sending a powerful signal of how the United States and our allies and partners are fully united in ensuring Ukraine remains sovereign, independent, and secure with the ability to defend against and deter future attacks,” the official said.
Ukraine has wanted to receive Western fighter jets like the American F-16 since the outset of the Russian invasion. Kyiv ramped up its pressure earlier this year to secure the warplanes, and Zelensky last month said he “raised the issue” of F-16 fighter jets during a call with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
The U.S. is also expected to unveil a “substantial” sanctions package against Russia on Friday while Biden is in Japan. Sanctions being issued by the U.S. will include blacklisting 300 individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft across Europe, the Middle East and Asia and an expanded sanctions authority to target sectors of the Russian economy.