The United States, Denmark and the Netherlands will begin in the coming weeks to design “a training framework” in the management of F-16 fighter jets for the Ukrainian forces. This was stated by the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austinin a joint press conference with the US Chief of Staff, General Mark Milleyfollowing the twelfth meeting of the Contact Group for Ukraine.
The military and defense officials of fifty allied countries participated in this virtual meeting, who were able to hear first-hand the needs of Ukraine, from the hands of its Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov.
On the F-16s, Austin welcomed the leadership role that Denmark and the Netherlands have chosen to take in training Ukrainian soldiers. He added that Norway, Belgium, Portugal and Poland have offered to assist in such training, noting that more countries are expected to join soon.
Both the defense secretary and Milley were asked why the US has so far been refusing to deliver F-16s to Ukraine and is currently accepting other nations to do so. Milley indicated that they have always weighed the costs between benefit and risk: “The F-16 is not a magic weapon of warand sometimes there are things that receive the label that this is going to be a magic weapon, but these do not exist”. He recalled that at the beginning of the war there was a “defensive struggle” by Ukraine, before the arrival of mechanized armored forces by Russia, so Kiev needed artillery and anti-aircraft defenses to prevent attacks from the air.
Milley stressed that currently the US has given the green light to deliver F-16s to Ukraine not because it is under pressure, but because it has done an analysis and wants to respond to battlefield needs now and in the near future. She indicated that F-16s respond to the “long term”since a “significant number” of this type of aircraft is needed to make a difference, and stressed that in order to create a large enough fleet, it must be done gradually, because if the US had allocated a lot of funds to these devices it would not have been able to contribute tanks.
Austin wanted to clarify that just because F-16s are being delivered to Ukraine doesn’t mean they are losing on the battlefield. “Not the case. Ukraine has inflicted significant casualties on Russian forces and destroyed an incredible amount of equipment, and this was before we provided them with this capability,” he noted. The head of Defense remarked that it is about joining the F-16s and placing the Ukrainians in a good place “to change the dynamics on the battlefield.”
At the last G7 summit in Japan, Biden informed his allies of his country’s change of position regarding the F-16 and opened up for other countries to donate this US-made aircraft to Ukraine, in addition to offering to participate in the training of Ukrainian pilots.