US President Joe Biden has pledged to provide advanced warplanes, including F-16s, to Ukraine and support efforts to train Kyiv’s pilots, according to a senior White House official. This move marks a breakthrough for Ukraine, which had previously been unsuccessful in pushing for Western supporters to provide high-tech jets as it defends against Russia’s invasion. Biden said the US would support joint efforts with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s. He added that the coalition of countries involved would decide when to provide jets and how many. The UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands have welcomed the decision.
Previously, US opposition to providing high-tech jets centred around the long timeline and high price, with officials preferring ground-based defences. However, F-16s appear likely to join other advanced systems such as Western tanks and long-range weaponry that Ukraine’s supporters have agreed to provide. The United States has spearheaded the push for international support for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, coordinating aid from dozens of countries. Total international military assistance for Kyiv is in the tens of billions of dollars, with the United States as the lead donor.
The United States has also trained 11 Ukrainian battalions, comprising 6,100 troops, in combined arms operations and 4,000 on individual systems. Over two dozen other countries are also involved in the training effort, which has instructed more than 52,000 Ukrainian troops so far.