< Back

US may delay F-16 training for Ukraine for political reasons

Jun 18, 2024

By the end of 2024, Ukraine will have fewer pilots trained to fly F-16 fighter jets than the planes themselves, in part due to delays in training by the United States that may be motivated by political reasons.

This was stated by Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of the Voice MP who monitors Western aid to Ukraine and heads the Verkhovna Rada's temporary investigative commission to monitor the receipt and use of international material and technical assistance during martial law, in a commentary to the British newspaper The Times.


The Times quotes Ustinova as saying that the training of pilots is being "deliberately delayed" and complaining that Washington's "political decision" could harm Ukraine's ability to withstand Russian armed aggression.

The MP argues that delays in training Ukrainian crews mean that by the end of 2024, Ukraine is likely to have only 20 pilots fully trained to fly F-16s. "So we will have fewer trained pilots than fighters," she added.

As The Times journalists remind, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway have pledged to provide Ukraine with more than 60 F-16 fighters. It is expected that Ukraine will receive the first aircraft this year, but it is not yet clear when they will start performing combat missions.

At the same time, Ustinova said that so far only eight Ukrainian pilots are being trained in Tucson, Arizona, and another 12 are being trained at an air base in Denmark. The third training program in Romania has not yet begun. Ustinova confirmed that Kyiv had asked Washington to provide at least ten more places for pilot training, but its request was rejected.

Last week, Politico reported similar information: according to the publication, the United States informed Ukraine that other countries are ahead of Ukrainian pilots in the queue for training places, and Washington cannot violate its obligations to them. A representative of the US Department of Defense also said that Ukrainian pilots have difficulties with their English language skills and the flight program. "The training capabilities of the F-16 are quite narrow," the unnamed American official said.

However, Ustinova called such statements "ridiculous."

"These are not arguments, these are excuses, and they keep coming up with them again and again," the MP said. She suggests that the delay in pilot training was most likely motivated by fears in Washington that the large-scale presence of US F-16s in Ukraine could be seen by Moscow as Ukraine's de facto integration into NATO. "This is an absolutely political [decision]," Ustinova said.

Author - Ihor Lontkivskyi 18.06.24

Recent news