The US has approved the transfer of F-16 instructional materials to Ukraine, according to a Biden administration official and a US official, as the program to train Ukrainian pilots on the American jets is set to begin.
“We can confirm the Department has recently approved a request from F-16 training partner Denmark related to their effort to stand up pilot and maintenance training programs,” said the official in President Joe Biden’s administration.
The approval includes training modules, documentation, and classroom training materials, the official said, which contains information about sensitive US technology.
The approval of the third-party transfer request from Denmark was one of the critical steps before Ukrainian fighter pilots could begin training to fly the fourth-generation jets, which Kyiv has requested for months. Earlier Friday, the Danish defense ministry said Ukrainian pilots would begin training on F-16 jets later this month, part of a coalition of 11 countries that will be involved in the training program.
On Thursday, the US said it had committed to approving the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine as soon as training is complete.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent letters to his counterparts in Denmark and the Netherlands assuring them that the transfer of the jets would have the “full support” of the Biden administration and would move quickly when training on the advanced aircraft is complete.
“You have my assurances that we will expedite approval of the requisite Third Party Transfer requests in time to enable delivery when the training is completed, including required notification to our Congress,” wrote Blinken in the letters.
Training will take time: On Friday, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa said the Ukrainian pilots who will learn to fly the F-16 fighter jet are getting language instruction in the United Kingdom, since all of the materials and the instruments in the jet itself are in English, before they start flying training aircraft.
“They’re going to get a little bit more training on (propellor aircraft) and then go down to France and fly in the Alpha jet for a little bit,” said Gen. James Hecker, speaking to a roundtable of reporters as part of the Defense Writers Group. The Alpha jet used by the French is an advanced jet trainer.
“That all is going to take time, and that’s probably not going to happen before the end of the year, so that takes a while to make that happen,” Hecker said. “So that’s why it’s going to be at least until next year until you see F-16s in Ukraine.”
Hecker said the Ukrainian pilots taking part in the F-16 training program are younger pilots who “barely have any hours at all” and are not currently taking part in the war.
The Ukrainians also said on Wednesday that they didn’t expect to receive the F-16s until next year.