National Security

Biden Admin Insists It’s Not Sending Ukraine F-16s As Ukrainian Pilots Train In US On F-16s

(Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Font Size:

President Joe Biden’s State Department continues to insist it has no plans to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine even as Ukrainian pilots are currently being evaluated on the aircraft in the United States.

NBC News first reported last weekend that two Ukrainian pilots were being evaluated in Arizona to assess their proficiency on the planes and gather information for potential future training plans. Defense Department officials confirmed the report, stating that the pilots were only being evaluated on simulators and that there are still no imminent plans to provide Ukraine with the jets.

“Our position on this has not changed,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing Wednesday. “What we have consistently done is to provide our Ukrainian partners with what they need to take on the battle they’re facing, with an eye to the direction in which the battle’s evolving.”

“The enabling support that the United States government has provided at every stage of this conflict, along with the support of dozens of countries around the world, has provided a decisive edge in some ways,” he added. (RELATED: Western Allies Divided In Response To Ukraine’s Newest Pleas For Jets)

President Joe Biden recently remarked that F-16s for Ukraine are off the table “for now,” with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan elaborating to explain that, in the United States’ view, Kyiv doesn’t need the aircraft for the current stage of the conflict. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy disagrees, having had the jets on his wishlist since the invasion began last February.

Even if the jets are eventually provided, they can’t be delivered immediately. Officials have estimated it would take about 18 months to get the planes to Ukraine and make them operational, with up to 18 months of training time potentially needed as well, although exercises like those currently underway in Arizona could shorten that timeframe.