More U.S. military aid and F-16 training for Ukraine

A Danish F-16 fighter jet at the Fighter Wing Skrydstrup air base of the Royal Danish Air Force, near Vojens, Denmark, 25 May 2023. Photo: EPA/BO AMSTRUP DENMARK OUT

The United States plans to announce up to USD 300 million worth of military aid for Ukraine comprising mainly of ammunition, two official sources said on Thursday. The package could be announced as soon as Friday, or perhaps after the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the United States, claim anonymous sources.

The package was expected to contain more Guided Multiple Launch Rockets (GMLRS) for HIMARS launchers, and ammunition for Ukraine's defense against Russia. The equipment would be funded using the Presidential Drawdown Authority, in which the president can authorize the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

The value and contents of the package can change at any time before being signed by President Joe Biden.

F-16 Training Program

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that European allies are developing a coordinated program to train Ukrainian forces on the F-16 fighter jet, but Pentagon leaders warned that it will be a costly and complex task and won't be a magic solution to the war.

Austin said the allies recognize that in addition to training, Ukraine will also need to be able to sustain and maintain the aircraft and have enough munitions. And he said air defense systems are still the weapons that Ukraine needs most in the broader effort to control the airspace.

“There are no magic weapons. The Russians have a thousand fourth and fifth-generation fighters, so if you’re going to contest Russia in the air, you’re going to need a substantial amount of fourth and fifth-generation fighters,” said Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke alongside Austin at a Pentagon. He added that providing 10 F-16s could cost USD 2 billion, including maintenance.

Austin said the Dutch and Danish defense ministers are working with the U.S. on the effort, and that Norway, Belgium, Portugal, and Poland have already offered to contribute to the training. In addition, he said the allies will set up a fund so that other nations can contribute to the overall effort.

“We expect more countries to join this important initiative,” Austin said, adding that the training is “an important example of our long-term commitment to Ukraine security.”

Austin earlier in the day said he hopes that training for Ukrainian pilots on American-made F-16 fighter jets will begin in the coming weeks, bolstering Ukraine in the long run but not necessarily as part of an anticipated spring counteroffensive against Russia.

The U.S. has pledged more than USD 35 billion worth of security assistance to Ukraine since the February 24, 2022, invasion by Russian forces.

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No U.S. equipment for Russia territory

The Pentagon officials also referred to the alleged use of U.S.-supplied equipment by the anti-Kremlin Russian partisans operating in Russian’s border Belgorod region.

The United States has long asked Ukraine not to use U.S.-provided military equipment to carry out attacks inside Russian territory, Milley said commenting on the accusations that pro-Ukrainian militia used U.S. armored vehicles.

He said his office was looking into imagery showing the vehicles allegedly used in an attack on the Russian border region of Belgorod. Milley pointed out that the U.S. position against such U.S. equipment being used inside Russia was clear to Kyiv.