The US is still waiting for European officials to submit a final plan for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, which the US will have to authorize before the program can actually begin, officials familiar with the matter told CNN.
The training is supposed to start this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European officials have said publicly. But two months after President Joe Biden announced US support for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, there remain a number of critical details to work out.
The US still needs to approve the transfer of F-16-specific equipment and materials, including flight simulators and training manuals. But officials told CNN that the Biden administration has not yet received a final training plan from the Europeans, meaning there is nothing for the US to sign off on yet.
It is also still unclear which countries will commit F-16s to the training program – and to Ukraine itself once the program is finished. Transferring the planes to Ukraine will require separate US approval.
US defense officials told CNN that the US is still deciding whether to send American pilots to help train the Ukrainians, but that no decisions will be made until a final training plan is authorized.
A spokesperson for Denmark’s Ministry of Defense would not comment directly on whether the country had submitted a formal plan to the US for approval. But the spokesperson provided a one-page training concept to CNN that said the course will aim to train pilots and ground crew over a span of six months, taking place at a number of locations including Skrydstrup Fighter Base in Denmark.
The training concept also said the coalition had agreed to support the training with “language experts, pilots, ground crew, instructors, aircraft or funding as appropriate. Ukraine is expected to provide qualified personnel able to pass necessary language, health, and security tests.”
A spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Defense said they had no updates. Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told CNN last month that the training was set to begin in Denmark in August, and then be continued “in a sustainable way” at a training hub in Romania. The training program will be for Ukraine and “also for other countries who are transitioning to the fourth generation fighter jets,” she said.
A faster training timeline
The training program is being supported by a coalition of 11 NATO countries and requires official US approval because the F-16 is an American technology.
The course itself is expected to be conducted in Denmark and Romania, with help from the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the UK, officials have said. But the details, including the dates, locations, and length of the syllabus “are still being worked out,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said during a briefing last week.