A group of Ukrainian pilots are in the United States for evaluations being conducted by the Arizona Air National Guard, according to two United States officials.
The 162nd Fighter Wing, which flies F-16 fighter jets, is based at Tucson International Airport and trains international aircrews on the fourth-generation aircraft, according to the officials. The Wing’s website said it has trained pilots from 25 countries that currently operate the F-16.
One of the officials said 10 more Ukrainian pilots may come to the US for the same evaluation and assessment.
Some background: The pilots are in the US for a “familiarization event” and “a routine activity” between the US Air Force and the Ukrainian pilots, a US military official said over the weekend. However, the official said “there are no updates to provide regarding F-16’s to Ukraine” and there are no immediate plans to increase the number of Ukrainian pilots in the US.
“This event allows us to better help Ukrainian pilots become more effective pilots and better advise them on how to develop their own capabilities,” the official said in the statement.
Top Ukrainian officials have been asking for fighter jets from the US, arguing they need them urgently to defend against Russian missile and drone attacks. But that push is being met with skepticism by US and allied officials who say the jets would be impractical, both because they require considerable training and because Russia has extensive anti-aircraft systems that could easily shoot them down.
CNN's Aaron Pellish and Chloe Liu contributed to this report.