They are tested on simulators at military bases in Tucson, Arizona, and flights on real aircraft, as noted, are not provided. Also, Ukrainian pilots receive advice on more effective ways to use already transferred Western weapons. Details about this are not given, but in the aviation part of the United States, for the first time, JDAM kits are handed over to the Ukrainian army for the development of aerial bombs based on the GPS system, and Since last year they have been supplying AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles for the Ukrainian Air Force. The use of both systems requires the modernization of the remaining aircraft in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The start of Ukrainian pilot trials can be seen as the first step in the decision-making process to supply Kiev with Western fighters, including F-16s called “fighting falcons”. US officials, however, deny this, arguing that it is not training, but an introductory event. Earlier, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his intention to train Ukrainian pilots.
These puns should not be misleading. The Pentagon has long trained Ukrainian armed forces at military bases on US soil. According to the US Department of Defense itself, over the past year more than four thousand Ukrainians have been trained under various programs. Now, at the base of Fort Sill (Oklahoma), combat crews of the Ukrainian armed forces are undergoing a training course on the use of American long-range anti-aircraft missile systems MIM-104 Patriot, which will be transferred to Kiev in the weeks and months to come.
Nevertheless, these are the first public reports of working with UAF pilots in America, which, at the same time, contradict recent statements by the Pentagon. US Undersecretary of Defense for Political Affairs Colin Cole told a congressional hearing last week that there were no plans yet to begin training Ukrainian pilots on F fighter jets. -16. He said that the process of training pilots on these combat vehicles takes up to 18 months, although part of the army believes that this period can be reduced to 6-9 months. At the same time, according to Kohl, the transfer of aircraft available in the United States to Kiev can take from one and a half to two years, and in the case of ordering new fighters from the manufacturer – from three to six years. That is, he explained, prior training will not save time in case the United States decides to transfer fighter jets to Kiev: “There is no point in start training Ukrainian Armed Forces pilots on systems they may never receive.”
Nevertheless, Kiev is gradually questioning Washington on this point. According to Kol, the Ukrainian side wants to receive up to 128 Western fourth-generation fighters, including F-15s, F-16s and F-18s. According to the Americans themselves, the Ukrainian Armed Forces will need 50-80 aircraft to replace the existing fighter fleet.
US officials at various levels have repeated that there are currently no plans to transfer military aviation to Kiev, but such a decision is not excluded in the future. And if we start from how decisions have been made over the past year on other types of weapons, from howitzers to air defense systems and tanks, which Washington initially refused to transfer to the armed forces Ukrainians, then there is no reason to exclude the supply of F-16s.
The dialogue on this subject is ongoing. US President Joe Biden, for example, discussed it with Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a recent visit to Kiev. At the same time, many military personnel and officials in the United States and Europe are already openly calling for giving Kiev all the weapons it asks for, including Western fighters. According to Congressman Michael McCall, the topic was actively discussed on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
Earlier, US officials argued that one of the important factors in making decisions about supplying certain types of weapons to Ukraine was the risks of escalating the conflict and dragging countries into it. NATO. But now, as the aforementioned Pentagon official said in a congressional hearing, the Americans have pretty much stopped limiting themselves because they “feel relatively comfortable about their position with Russia in escalation dynamics.
Despite the progress made on the issue of fighters, the United States and its allies are now focusing on the types of equipment that can be transferred to Ukraine in the coming weeks for the offensive operations of the Ukrainian Armed Forces regularly announced by Washington. At the end of last week, the Americans allocated the 33rd tranche of weapons to Kiev, this time for around 400 million dollars. It will include ammunition for equipment actively transferred to Kiev, including shells and rockets for artillery, ammunition for the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, as well as several caterpillar bridges. This is all a technique used in offensive combat operations.
According to the New York Times, senior US military officials conducted a series of staff drills for the Ukrainians last week, laying out possible offensive options on maps.
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