A delegation from Ministry of Defense of Ukraineincluding half a dozen pilots from his air force, arrived in the United States on Tuesday to finalize details of the president’s request Zelensky to the administration Biden Over the F-16 aircraft.
The Ukrainian pilots that make up the entourage have the mission of becoming familiar with the aircraft’s weapons systems and with their specific operational aspects in order to fly them in offensive and defense missions against Russian aircraft. However, they found that it is not yet clear that Washington officials have plans to send the F-16s to kyiv as President Biden had personally promised President Zelensky on his last trip to Ukraine.
According to statements that Infobae was able to access from an adviser close to the US Secretary of Defense, the pilots have been located at an air base in Arizona and await the political decision that will allow them to train in handling aircraft and their systems. of weapons. However, they train in simulators and not with the planes.
In another official statement made on Tuesday morning by a Defense Department spokesperson, he announced for the first time that -at the moment- there are no plans to increase the number of pilots to add to those currently at the base. of Arizona, although he clarified that the last word has not been said for the immediate future.
The official report of the US Air Force indicated that by Defense orders it is helping Ukrainian pilots to train in the use of aircraft so that they can expand their capabilities. The force complies with orders from the central government and defense officials, a statement said clarifying that: The visit of Ukrainian pilots is a routine activity within the framework of relations between the US and Ukrainian military, as it happens with other pilots from friendly countries.
Also political officials of the Biden administration were in charge of remarking that the pilots are not allowed to fly any real planes during their visit, something that they have said is totally natural and that in the past has been carried out with other countries under a program implemented a long time ago. many years by the United States European Air Command.
The American press reported on the arrival of the Ukrainian pilots confirming that they are already in the country and that it will be the air force and the army who will evaluate the training time that the pilots need to perfect the techniques to fly the combat planes that ” would go” to Ukraine. Although it is also speculated that a new delegation of a dozen more pilots may arrive in the United States before the end of March.
At the same time, in what appears to be a denial of what was stated by the press and the air force, an official Defense document distributed to the local media reported that there is still no confirmation on the increase in the number of Ukrainian pilots who could arrive to join the troops currently in Arizona.
Also the chain ABC News reported Tuesday that the Ukrainian pilots are training with officers from the Arizona National Guard, which also flies F-16 fighter jets with its combat aircraft brigade at its base near Tucson International Airport. More details regarding the fighter jets were released by Ukrainian officials in recent hours calling for an increase in the number of planes that Washington promised to send to Kiev to repel Russian attacks. However, the first disagreements emerged there when President Biden declared on Wednesday that “at the moment” he is not considering sending the fighter jets to Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials believe that in recent days some advisers to the president have influenced the president, arguing that the situation map of the current war means that Ukraine does not need F-16s and that it will need more state-of-the-art armored vehicles and heavy artillery; In short, weapons that require less training time for the Ukrainian military to operate them.
“We have not yet made the final decision to supply the F-16s to Ukraine. Although their pilots are in our country still it was not decided their training in a weapon that may not reach them”, stated on thursday Colin Kahl, a senior official in the Pentagon’s Armed Services Committee. The same official considered that Ukraine does not need the F-16s in the current state of the war and that their use requires complex training that is currently inappropriate for Kiev’s urgent needs in other types of weapons systems with which it can defend their territory quickly and effectively against Vladimir Putin’s renewed offensive.
Another official who works as a spokesman for the Department of Defense delivered to the press a document with the administration’s position where he confirms Kahl’s comments and shows a similar line that -for the moment- The Biden administration welcomed the Ukrainian pilots but did not change its position on “a more thorough evaluation” to provide kyiv with the F-16s.
For Jake Sullivan, one of Biden’s top National Security advisers, the F-16 fighter jets “They are not considered highly necessary weapons that Ukraine needs at this time of the war to face the combat against the forces of Moscow.”. In any case, he did not rule out that in the coming weeks this perception of Washington could change and the combat planes could be provided to the Ukrainian air force. Sullivan told CBS News earlier in the week that: from the administration’s perspective, the F-16s are not a defining necessity for a new Ukrainian counteroffensive.
In this scenario of affirmations and counter marches, the advisers and President Biden himself believe that the F-16s constitute a long-term matter for the defense of Ukraine and should not necessarily be provided now as a new defensive capability for Kiev. In this framework of marches and counter-marches, the Ukrainians have become restless and see Biden’s position as a step backwards, who personally promised Zelensky on his recent trip -on the first year of the Russian invasion- that the planes would arrive and could count on them In fact, that was the reason why the Ukrainian pilots traveled to the United States for their training. However, in the face of recent recommendations from US military and intelligence agencies, the president appears to have changed his mind and his advisers based this change on other needs of the Ukrainian army for the current phase of the war in the face of the new Russian offensive.
Faced with statements that affirm and deny the issue at the same time, on Thursday Infobae was able to talk with a Pentagon defense adviser who indicated under anonymity that the change in President Biden’s position is due to his military advisers, who assess that as spring approaches, what Ukraine really needs are armor, precision artillery, infantry fighting vehicles and tanks, which are being provided. But currently, Washington does not see expanding Kiev’s air capacity as decisive, since it doubts that Ukrainian pilots can take the war further, that is, attacking deep into Russian territory.
Outside of the decision to send the F-16s to kyiv or not, Joe Biden finds himself facing another open front that day after day is heavier for him and generates more pressure. On the one hand, some of his own legislators who, together with various Republican opponents, demand that he stop sending the million-dollar aid to Ukraine, and on the other hand, those who pressure him to urgently provide the combat planes.
The real fact is that the Ukrainian pilots are stranded on US territory without knowing when their actual training and training will begin, while military actions on the ground show a powerful Russian advance that, according to various military experts, is causing significant wear and tear on the defenders. Ukrainians who demand urgent support from Washington and the longer the administration delays in making a decision on the matter. Even more so as the conflict continues to escalate and it may be too late when Biden decides to make available to Ukraine everything he promised and kyiv needs to have a chance to end the war.
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