Pair of Ukrainian pilots are being trained by US military in Arizona to fly fighter jets

The US military is training two Ukrainian pilots on US soil to calculate how long it would take them to learn to fly fighter jets like the F-16.

The pair are being taught using flight simulators at a base in Tucson, Arizona, a senior US official said. NBC News.

The official said none of the pilots will fly real planes during their stay in the US Up to ten more pilots will arrive this month for similar training called a “familiarization event.”

“The program is about evaluating their skills as pilots so we can better advise them on how to use the capabilities they have and have been given,” the official told the network.

The official went on to “emphasize” that this is not an official training program and is not an indicator that President Joe Biden will send F-16s to Ukraine, amid calls from both sides of the aisle for him to do so.

Biden said in an ABC News interview last week that he is not ready to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

The president continues to face calls from both sides of the aisle to send F-16s to assist the Ukrainian effort.

The Biden administration and Congress have set aside a staggering $113 billion in US taxpayer funds for Ukraine in a conflict with no end in sight.

Biden said in an interview with ABC News last week that he is not ready to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been pressing the US and its allies for planes, but White House officials have denied that they are not the weaponry Ukrainians need in the near term.

“There is no basis on which there is a justification, according to our military now, to provide F-16s,” Biden said. I rule it out for now.

The Washington Post editorial board called on Biden to send F-16s, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C. said in a tweet that Biden dismissed it as “disappointing.”

“It has been like pulling teeth with this Administration to bring to the battlefield all of the weapons systems requested by Ukraine.”

On the other hand, Smith defended the Biden administration, arguing that “what we are giving Ukraine are the weapons systems it needs.”

“There is no decision being made on whether it is too creepy,” he insisted.

In total, Ukraine is ready to send 20 pilots to the US for training. “It is a routine activity as part of our military-to-military dialogue with Ukraine,” the official said.

‘The ‘familiarization event’ is essentially a discussion between Air Force personnel and an observation of how the US Air Force operates. This event allows us to better help Ukrainian pilots become more effective pilots and mentor them better about how to develop their own capabilities,” they continued.

Colin Kahl, assistant secretary for defense policy, insisted that US F-16 fighter jets are not a priority for Ukraine and would take 18-24 months to get them operational in the war zone.

This week Colin Kahl, the undersecretary for defense policy, also insisted that US F-16 fighter jets are not a priority for Ukraine and would take 18-24 months to get them operational in the war zone.

The comments came at a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing on Ukraine oversight on Tuesday.

It comes amid a growing split in the Republican Party between those who favor more help to Ukraine in its fight against Russia and those who have grown tired of pouring billions into a foreign war that has now lasted more than a year.

‘US military aid to Ukraine exceeds the costs of Afghanistan. Enough is enough,’ Texas Republican Rep. Troy Nehls tweeted Tuesday.

F-16 fighter jet

Origin: USA

Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.

Manufactured: 1978 to present

Speed: 1500 mph (Mach 2)

Range: 2,002 miles

Armor: 20 mm cannon; external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles

Cost: $18 million

Defense Department Inspector General Robert Storch insisted there are more than 20 ongoing and planned audits and assessments of the more than $113 billion in combined military, economic and humanitarian aid the United States has provided to Ukraine since Russia invaded.

He said his agency would have a monitoring report on aid to Ukraine available in April.

“We don’t see any evidence of deviation in our reports,” Kahl added. “We believe that the Ukrainians are correctly using what they have been given.”

But Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was not convinced. He asked Storch four times in a row to say whether aid to Ukraine complied with End-Use Monitoring, a provision of the 1996 Gun Control Act that requires the US to ensure that weapons it delivers to other nations are used for their intended purposes.

‘You can’t testify truthfully under oath that DOD has complied with policy and law regarding end-use monitoring during all times of this conflict, can you?’ Gaetz pressed.

“I want to be careful here,” Storch said. “We are conducting a series of assessments that look at the controls that the DOD has in place to ensure that they are taking the necessary steps.”

“You’re dodging the question,” he told Storch as the OIG repeated that investigations were ongoing.

‘I understand it’s ongoing, I’m looking back. You can’t testify that everything has complied with the end-use monitoring law, right?’ Gaetz said.

“So some of that goes into the classified report,” Storch said.

Authorities say the Ukrainian pilots are in the US for testing.

I don’t know why that report is classified. I think the American people deserve to know if the 1996 law is being followed,” Gaetz said. “They can’t testify that they are being followed, so I think they can draw reasonable conclusions from that.”

Asked if the 20 audits did anything to assuage his concerns, Gaetz told ‘I’ve read the results of some of those audits. And after reading the results, I’m still deeply concerned about end-use monitoring.’

Instead, Armed Services Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers criticized President Biden for being “too concerned that giving Ukraine what it needs to win would be too chilling.”

Ranking Democrat Adam Smith, meanwhile, took a more cautious tone on aid to Ukraine.

‘No blank check means no blank check. It means we don’t send everything people ask for in the blink of an eye without even thinking about it. Okay, we think about it and we give the Ukrainians what they really need, ”he said.

Meanwhile, four other lawmakers, mostly on the Armed Services Committee, have signed a 16-member bipartisan letter calling on the Biden administration to deliver F-16 fighter jets or similar fourth-generation jets to Ukraine.

But Smith poured cold water on the idea of ​​giving F-16s to Ukraine.

‘We determined that it is not a wise use of the resources that are necessary to win the fight. That’s what no blank check means,’ he said.

US aerospace company Lockheed Martin said it will build more F-16s (pictured) to “pad” any European country that wants to supply its own jets to Ukraine through a third-party transfer.

Volodymyr Zelensky (pictured on January 24) is now pushing for Western fourth-generation fighter jets, like the US F-16, to be brought to the United States.

Kahl had said it would take 18-24 months to get a full fleet of F-16s operational in Ukraine, as he said the Ukrainians are more concerned with other weapons systems.

“It’s a priority for Ukrainians, but it’s not one of their top three priorities,” Kahl said.

Kahl told the hearing that the United States had not begun any type of training of Ukrainian pilots on the F-16.

“I think it’s crazy,” Gaetz told of the push for the F-16 by his colleagues in the Military.

‘I worry when I hear the push [for F-16s] because it seems like what directly precedes us sending something to Ukraine is the Biden administration saying we won’t,” Gaetz said.

‘That’s what they said about the Stingers, the Abrams, the HIMARS, now that’s what they say about the F-16s. Certainly Lockheed believes that there will be F-16s on the way and they are ramping up production already.

Kahl also pushed back on the claim that the Biden administration had been behind the ball in providing assistance to Ukraine over escalation concerns.

“Overall, I don’t think we are withholding security assistance from Ukraine largely for escalation reasons,” he said, adding that he was “relatively comfortable about where we are in the escalation dynamic.”

Meanwhile, Kahl insisted that Ukraine will not lose, despite reports that Russia is preparing a spring offensive.

“I think we have a safe conclusion: Russia has lost,” he said. They will emerge from this conflict a shattered military power.

“Ukraine is not going to lose,” Kahl said, adding that there might be minor territorial changes in the coming months, but nothing major.

“The Russians do not have the ability to take over Ukraine,” he added.

Kahl said he does not anticipate Russia using nuclear weapons, even though Vladimir Putin officially signed into law Tuesday suspending the New START treaty, Russia’s last standing arms control treaty with the US.

“We have made it very clear to Russia at the highest level that any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine on any scale would be considered a world-changing event,” Kahl said.

He issued a threat: “Many of the restrictions we have been operating with would no longer apply.”

Kahl said Russia’s suspension of START was Putin’s way of “creating some rhetorical headlines” but it will have little practical effect.

But when asked about claims by fellow Republicans that the Biden administration was too hesitant to provide weapons for fear of escalation, Gaetz said: “I fear Russia’s nukes more than Russia’s broken tanks.”

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