The US is working with Ukrainian pilots to determine how long would it take them to train to fly F-16 fighter jets, a report has said.
A report in CNN said two Ukrainian pilots are in the US military base and undertaking a flight simulators test to see how much time they require to fly American fighter jets including F-16s.
However, a US military official said the Ukrainian pilots were in Tucson, Arizona for a “familiarization event” and called it a “routine activity” as part of the military-to-military dialogue with Kyiv.
“The familiarization event is essentially a discussion between the Air Force personnel and an observation of how the US Air Force operates,” the US official reportedly said.
He also said that the event helps the Ukrainian pilots to become more effective and better advise them on how to boost their capabilities.
He, however, added that the pilots will not be flying any jets during the event, but only be using a simulator.
He further clarified that there are no updates regarding providing F-16s to Ukraine and there are no plans to increase the number of Ukrainian pilots in the US.
The training indicates that the US has not completely closed the door on providing F-16s.
Ukraine has been pushing for the US to provide fighter jets and top Ukrainian officials have escalated their public lobbying campaign in recent days, the report said.
But the US is sceptical of providing the jet as it requires considerable training and Russia has anti-aircraft systems that could easily shoot them down.
When asked if the US would be providing F-16s to Ukraine, President Joe Biden responded with a flat “no.” US also believes that supplying Ukraine with new fighter jets could risk an escalation between NATO and Russia.
US and European officials have said that F-16 fighter jets were impractical in this situation.
Poland has said it would be ready to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, if NATO members were in agreement. Last month, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Warsaw was “ready" to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.
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