Washington, May 25 (EFE).- The United States, Denmark and The Netherlands in the coming weeks will begin designing “a training framework” for Ukrainian forces to operate and maintain F-16 combat aircraft.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made the announcement at a joint press conference with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, after the 12th meeting of the Defense Contact Group for Ukraine.
Participating in the virtual meeting were the top military and defense officials from 50 allied countries, who listened closely to Ukraine’s military needs, as articulated by Kyiv’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov.
Regarding the F-16s, Austin thanked Denmark and The Netherlands for their leadership in taking on the task of training Ukrainian military personnel in the aircraft’s use and maintainance.
He added that Norway, Belgium, Portugal and Poland have also offered to help with that training and said that hopes are the more countries will join the effort soon.
Both Austin and Milley were asked why, up to now, the US had refused to provide F-16s to Ukraine and why Washington is now agreeing for other nations to do so.
Milly said that US defense officials had weighed the costs and benefits, as well as the risks, noting that the F-16 is not some kind of “magic weapon” and, although sometimes certain weapons are given that kind of a title or expectation, such weapons really don’t exist.
He said that at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv had been fighting a “defensive” war, given the use of mechanized armored forces by Russia, and thus the Ukrainians had needed artillery and anti-air defenses to prevent air attacks.
Milley emphasized that the US now has given the green light to furnishing Ukraine with F-16s not because Kyiv’s forces are under pressure but rather because an analysis had been made and Washington wants to respond to Kyiv’s current and near-future needs on the battlefield.
He said that the F-16s are being provided to respond to Ukraine’s “long-term” needs, given that it will need a “significant number” of this type of aircraft to make a difference in defending itself against Russia, and he emphasized that creating a sufficiently important fleet must be done in a gradual way because if the US would have allocated more funds to aircraft it would not have been able to supply enough tanks to Kyiv.
Austin sought to clarify that the fact that F-16s will now be provided to Ukraine does not mean that Kyiv is losing on the battlefield.
“That is not the case,” said Austin, noting that Ukraine has inflicted “significant” casualties on Russian forces and had destroyed a huge amount of Russian equipment even before US had provided them with the military hardware to do so.
The defense chief remarked that the F-16s are being provided to put the Ukrainians in a good position to “change the dynamics” on the battlefield.
At the recent G7 Summit in Japan, US President Joe Biden informed Washington’s allies of his administration’s change in posture regarding the F-16s and cleared the way for other countries to provide the US-made aircraft to Ukraine, in addition to offering to participate in training Ukrainian pilots.