The U.S. government has changed its stance and will support the training of Ukrainian pilots on the F-16. That could lead to the U.S. giving European countries permission to transfer their surplus Vipers to Ukraine. According to Politico, this could be the first of such arrangements and other Western aircraft might be considered for transfer to Ukraine, but the types were not announced.

As a practical matter, the F-16 is a prominent first choice because Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands all have surplus aircraft since taking delivery of F-35s. There have been no applications by any of those countries to the U.S. to donate them to Ukraine. As a condition of buying U.S.-made military hardware, the U.S. must sign off on any plan to transfer it to other countries. After Friday’s announcement, Dutch Defense Minister Kahsa Ollengren said her country is ready to get the training program going.

Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky did a victory lap around the G-7 meeting where he was invited as an observer. “This will greatly enhance our army in the sky,” Zelensky tweeted. “I count on discussing the practical implementation of this decision at the #G7 summit in Hiroshima.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force evaluated the skills of two Ukrainian fighter pilots at an Air National Guard F-16 base in Arizona. It will take several months at least to get the pilots trained and, if the donations are approved, the aircraft will have to be put in flying shape before they see action in Ukraine.

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