() — The United States will allow European countries to train Ukrainians in F-16 fighter jets, a senior Biden administration official confirmed Sunday, a potential boon for Ukraine’s efforts to counter Russia’s air superiority.
“The president has given the green light and we will allow, support, facilitate and actually provide the necessary tools for the Ukrainians to start training on F-16 type aircraft, as soon as the Europeans are ready,” the adviser told him. US Homeland Security Officer Jake Sullivan to ‘s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
The decision cements a sea change for President Joe Biden, who said earlier this year that he did not believe Ukraine needed F-16s. One of the main problems Kyiv’s ground forces have faced as their counter-offensive gets under way is that Russian air power is holding it back. Russia still maintains air superiority, making it difficult for ground forces to advance.
In May, Biden had informed G7 leaders that the US would support a joint effort with allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation aircraft, including F-16s, although it was unclear at the time when it would start. that training.
The US-made aircraft has air refueling capability and is compatible with most NATO weapons already supplied to Ukraine. Although it first went into production in the 1980s, it has gone through several upgrades, making it more advanced and versatile than any jet Ukraine currently has in its fleet, and a fierce rival to most Russian jets. except for the most recent models that Moscow has been hesitant to deploy in Ukraine.
Sullivan noted Sunday that the European allies have said they need several weeks to prepare training skills and that the US will stick to whatever timetable they set.
“The United States will not be the obstacle in ensuring that this F-16 training can begin,” he said.
Turning to US national defense, Sullivan lamented the defense policy bill passed by the House of Representatives that includes the adoption of several controversial amendments that touched on burning social issues.
“This legislation will never make it to the president’s desk because what he’s seen from an extreme group of Republicans is introducing a series of amendments that try to mix domestic social debates with security needs,” Sullivan said.
The addition of amendments pushed by hardline conservatives related to abortion policy and access to healthcare for transgender people, as well as inclusion and diversity programs angered Democrats, and will now spark a showdown with the controlled Senate by the Democrats.
Sullivan, who was pressed to acknowledge that the bill passed along partisan lines but was supported by a majority of House Republican lawmakers, argued that the process had been hijacked by a “small group of Republicans.”
“A lot of people in the House, including Republicans, in my opinion, are not particularly interested in getting the policy in the middle of the Defense (National) Authorization Act,” Sullivan said, referring to the official name of the House. defense policy bill.
“So it was a small group of Republicans who essentially set up a trap. A circumstance in which we do not need to find ourselves”.
— ‘s Natasha Bertrand, Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, William Bonnett and Daria Markina Tarasova contributed to this report.