After British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared to suggest that the United Kingdom would send Ukraine the advanced fighter jets that President Volodymr Zelenskyy has repeatedly requested throughout the Russian invasion, it was revealed over the weekend how two Ukrainian fighter pilots are in the United States.
Ukraine Has Pilots in U.S. – Any Guesses As to Why?
According to sources familiar with discussions, two Ukrainian pilots are already undergoing an assessment of their ability to fly advanced fighter jets at the Air National Guard base in Tucson, Arizona. The presence of Ukrainian soldiers in the United States is significant, and something Russia is likely to respond to in one way or another, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the United States is preparing to immediately send F-16 fighter jets.
According to the sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity in a Politico report, the Ukrainian pilots are not flying U.S. aircraft on the base and are instead using aircraft simulators.
The aim, they said, is to assess their skills and to determine what training is necessary to help Ukrainian pilots put their skills to better use “on their own planes.”
One of the sources in report, a U.S. official, said that the aim of the training is to determine how the United States can best help Ukrainian forces improve their air force.
“The program involves watching how Ukrainian pilots conduct their mission planning and execution in flight simulators in order to determine how we can better advise the Ukrainian Air Force,” the official explained according to a report in Politico.
Will the UK Send the Jets Kyiv Needs?
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that the United Kingdom is not preparing to send Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon jets to Ukraine, rejecting Zelenskyy’s pleas during a recent visit to London. Wallace said that the advanced fighter jets would be too complex for Ukrainian fighters to use.
As an alternative, Wallace said that the British government was willing to provide air cover with Typhoon jets for Eastern European countries if they would like to send Mig-29 and other Soviet-era jets to Ukraine instead.
Wallace made the comments during an interview with Britain’s Sky News on the anniversary of the Russian invasion.
A spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said that the government’s position supports the prime minister’s previous promises to support countries that do want to offer their own jets.
The promise could prove a catalyst for encouraging European countries to take Poland up on its offer to supply more than two-dozen MIG-29s as part of a “wider coalition” with other neighboring states.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.