Biden tells G7 leaders he will train Ukrainian pilots

(CNN) — US President Joe Biden told G7 leaders on Friday that his country would support a joint effort with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation aircraft, including the F-16, a senior US administration official told CNN.

The exercise is not planned to be held in the US and will be held entirely in Europe, the official said. But U.S. personnel will participate in exercises with allies and partners in Europe, the official said. It is expected to take several months to complete, and the official said he hopes to begin “in the next few weeks.”

The decision marks a radical reversal in Biden’s position, who earlier this year declared he did not believe Ukraine needed F-16s. The decision to support the training effort came quickly, according to officials, from Biden after meetings with G7 leaders in Hiroshima, Japan, where the issue of sending F-16s to Ukraine was a key point of discussion. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been pushing hard in recent days for countries that have these fighters in their arsenal to send them to Ukraine so the country can better defend against daily Russian airstrikes.

“As the exercise takes place in the coming months, our coalition of countries participating in this initiative will actually decide when to provide aircraft, how many and who will provide them,” the official said.

“To date, the United States and our allies and partners have focused on providing Ukraine with most of the systems, weapons and training it needs to conduct offensive operations this spring and summer,” the official added. [boreales]”Talks about upgrading the Ukrainian Air Force reflect our long-standing commitment to Ukrainian defense.

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on his way to the G7 meeting that he welcomed the “historic decision by the US and @POTUS to support an international coalition of fighter jets.”

“This will greatly improve our military in the air. I look forward to discussing the practical application of this decision at the #G7 summit in Hiroshima,” Zelensky added.

In March, the U.S. placed two Ukrainian pilots at a military base in Tucson, Arizona to test their flight simulator skills and assess how long they would have to learn to fly various U.S. military aircraft, including the F-16. Congress earmarked funds for such training in the 2023 budget.

CNN reported Thursday that the Biden administration has signaled in recent weeks that it would allow European allies to export F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, sources familiar with the discussions said, as the White House is under pressure from Congress and members of Congress. Allies help Ukraine buy planes as Russia steps up airstrikes

A few European countries, including the Netherlands, have taken delivery of US-made F-16s, some of which have expressed an interest in exporting them to Ukraine. But the United States must authorize such a transfer to a third party because of America’s sensitive nuclear reactor technology.

A spokesman for the UK Prime Minister said earlier this week that the UK and the Netherlands had formed an “international alliance” to not only buy fighter jets for Ukraine, but also train Ukrainian pilots in the fighter jets. than the Ukrainian fighter jet.

— CNN’s Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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Esmond Harmon

"Entrepreneur. Social media advocate. Amateur travel guru. Freelance introvert. Thinker."

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