Biden backs international plan to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s

 WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden Group told allied nations that the U.S. would assist with training Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter aircraft, including American-made F-16s, during a closed-door meeting at the Group of Seven Summit in Hiroshima on Friday.

Biden said his administration would support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter jets, a senior U.S. official said. Training on the jets will take place over the course of several months outside of Ukraine in Europe and could begin in the next several weeks.

U.S. participation in the program could signal that Washington is closer to arming Ukraine with the aircraft.

The senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that countries participating in the effort will decide when to provide the jets, how many Ukraine will get and which nations would supply them.

U.S F-16 fighter jets fly in formation during joint U.S.-Philippines air force military exercises near on May 9, 2023.

In recent days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been on whirlwind tour of European capitals to keep the pressure on foreign partners. He is expected to attend the G-7 summit in person on Sunday.

Ukraine has repeatedly asked its western allies to supply it with modern jets to fight back against Russia.

Many have been reluctant to do so for fear of the risk of being drawn more actively into the war and because they fear it could spill over into NATO territory. The U.S. is already training a few Ukrainian pilots on U.S. soil.

To date, the Biden administration has declined to provide the planes, opting to focus military aid on the weapons it says that Ukraine will need for offensive operations this spring and summer.

Biden offered his endorsement of the training program during the G-7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, where the leaders of the world's most powerful democracies are holding talks.

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