Ukraine set sights on new jets; pilots train in the US: Ukrainian Air Force

Polish Air Force

Ukraine has decided which type of new combat aircraft it will acquire, has allocated funds for training on the new planes and sent military pilots to the United States for training, the Ukrainian Air Force has revealed.

The information was announced by Yurii Ihnat, the spokesman for the Air Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in a speech during his television address, according to Ukrainian media.

“Our military pilots visited the United States, funds for the training of our pilots were allocated… That is, the aviation topic has never left the agenda. The type of aircraft likely to be provided to Ukraine and the corresponding training terms were already determined,” the Ukrainian Military Center quoted Ihnat as saying. 

“We asked to give Ukraine such weapons as a multi-purpose aircraft back at the beginning of the invasion by the Russian Federation. This is understandable, as without aviation, without reliable aviation cover, it is very difficult to conduct any military action at all,” Ihnat reportedly added.

Previous reports have stated that Ukrainian pilots are training to fly NATO aircraft in the US, although these have still not been confirmed. In July 2022 the US House of Representatives authorized and allocated funds for the training, and the UAF announced it was selecting pilots for the task. 

A controversial issue

Provision of the Western-made jets still remains a heavily contested issue. 

While several countries claimed they would be able to agree to supplying Ukraine with aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen, no concrete steps have been taken towards the transfer of the aircraft.

Even the provision of Soviet-made aircraft and their parts has run into problems, and while there have been reports about some deliveries, they remain unconfirmed.

Experts have said that hesitation from countries to supply Ukraine with modern aircraft was due to a fear of escalating the conflict, among other things, and has resulted in Ukraine having to make do with a significantly underpowered air force.

“The expectation in Washington is that the war will be over before any F-16 are transferred to Ukraine, and they’re able to integrate them into their air force. How this all plays out still remains to be seen,” Former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker explained in an interview with AeroTime.

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