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Allies may not give Ukraine F-16s for months, Biden admin says

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 301st Fighter Wing, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, prepare to launch F-16C Fighting Falcons. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton).
July 06, 2023

Following President Joe Biden’s announcement that the United States would support a coalition of allies planning to provide aid to Ukrainian forces by providing F-16s and training for Ukrainian pilots, a State Department official has provided an update regarding a potential timeline for the support.

According to CNN, during the Group of Seven summit in Japan, Biden announced that the United States would help train the Ukrainians in the operation of the F-16 jets that are expected to be transferred by other allies.

While the United States has not announced any transfers of F-16s to Ukraine, it does support other aircraft transfers from its allies. Stan Brown, principal deputy assistant for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, has warned that any potential transfer of F-16s from U.S. allies could take months. 

Before the U.S. can approve the transfer of F-16s from its allies, Ukrainian pilots would need to be trained and licensed on the planes. Additionally, the aircraft selected for transfer would have to be identified, while transport concerns, such as whether they would be delivered to Ukrainian forces by a third party, would have to be resolved.

While Brown reportedly confirmed the U.S. was in the process of completing paperwork for third-party requests by allies seeking to assist in training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, Brown made it clear the U.S. was working as quickly as possible within procedural constraints.

Brown stated officials had “used pretty much every tool in our security cooperation toolkit to get things done,” according to Military Times. 

“The bottom line (is) that the scale of what we’re doing here is historic,” Brown said, “Things that used to take months and weeks to get through the approval process across interagency (are) happening in a matter of hours.” 

The U.S. has provided an estimated $40 million in aid to Ukrainian causes over the course of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, ranging from drawdown authorities, direct transfers from Defense Department stocks, foreign military sales and grants and third-party transfers. 

While the U.S. is preparing to approve transfers, other allies have come forward in agreement to aid. Troels Lund Poulsen, acting Danish Defense Minister, said Denmark would support Ukrainian forces with transfers of F-16s, following Biden’s approval on June 20, according to Radio 4. 

“I want to say that I can’t imagine that we would not support this. Ukraine needs aircraft. More than ever, if they want to fight external aggression. This also applies to the Danish F-16 combat aircraft,” Poulsen said, according to Ukrinform. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a stern warning that F-16 jets supplied to Ukrainian forces would be destroyed by Russian forces.