Political circles in the United States are working on donating US F-15 and F-16 aircraft to Ukraine as part of a $100 million plan approved under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 329-101 to train Ukrainian pilots on how to operate US aircraft.
The decision to do so comes from the House of Representatives.
Ukraine has requested such aircraft from the US since the beginning of the invasion, on February 24, 2022. Incidentally, since Ukrainian pilots are not trained to operate these fighter planes, logically speaking it makes sense to give them to Ukraine only after due training. Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly Sukhoi and MiGs fighter jets, not F-15 and F-16 fighters.
It is very likely that the US will change the type of military equipment it will supply to Ukraine by the end of this year, said Republican Adam Kinzinger.
“It is now clear to the whole world that when the war ends, Ukraine will be armed with Western weapons, and the training of Ukrainian pilots, will logically lead to the delivery of American fighter jets.”
To date, Ukraine has received a few Soviet era fighter planes, many of which have been shot down by Russian forces. Bulgaria has delivered Su-25s in parts via third countries, while Slovakia has donated its entire fleet of 12 MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine.
According to defence analysts, attitudes in Washington support the delivery of US weapons, including combat aircraft. At the same time however, the Biden Administration is concerned that with increased incidents of Western technology in Ukraine will increase the likelihood of them falling into Russian hands, which will allow Moscow to quickly gain access to sensitive Western technology.
Further, the Biden Administration is also wary of crossing a “red line” which could see hostilities escalate beyond Ukraine’s borders.
According to US sources, the future training of Ukrainian pilots will most likely be carried out at US bases in Columbus and Texas.
The US Senate is yet to decide whether Washington will train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-15s and F-16s, and whether Ukraine will at all receive Western planes. It will take a decision to this effect sometime in September.
Before that, however, the House proposal will have to traverse through a conference committee, where it is unclear what changes it will undergo. In the event it goes through without modifications, Ukraine will send pilots to the US towards the end of 2022 for training.