US, Allies Discuss Western Jets for Ukraine: USAF Chief

The US and its allies have begun discussing the possible training of Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter jets, Reuters revealed citing US Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.

Gen. Brown told the outlet that discussions continue about the kind of air force Ukraine needs for the future.

“You want to build a long-term plan on how do you build their air force and the air force that they’re going to need for the future,” Brown said as he flew to Aspen, Colorado, for a security forum.

Months of Training Required

The general added that the possible training would depend on the “state of war” and the ability of Ukraine to pull pilots out of the ongoing conflict and send them to the US for months of training. 

“How can you make that transition from where we are today to where we are going to want to be in the future? To allow folks to leave to go train,” he told the outlet, adding that a US pilot typically takes two to four months to learn to fly a western aircraft, which means a Ukrainian pilot would take longer to transition from a Soviet-era system.

“I feel pretty confident there are some of our NATO partners who have done that, can actually have lessons that they learned that can be helpful to the Ukrainians to help them figure out how to best make that transition,” Brown said.

Ukrainian SU-27 plane
Ukrainian Air Force’s SU-27 aircraft in Ozerne air base. Image: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/ Getty Images

Western Jets For Ukraine

At the Aspen Security Summit, Gen. Brown added that the possibility of sending Western aircraft to Ukraine is being discussed.

“There’s US [jets], there’s Gripen out of Sweden, there’s the Eurofighter, there’s [the French] Rafale. So there’s a number of different platforms that could go to Ukraine,” he remarked.

Older Jets Could Be Sent

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the US Air Force Frank Kendall said that sending older US fighter jets to Ukraine is a possibility. He didn’t rule out the suggestion of sending the A-10 Warthog close air support aircraft.

“The venerable A-10 … is not a system that we are going to need against the kinds of adversaries we’re concerned about most now,” The War Zone quoted him saying. 

“General Brown addressed that question this morning about what fighters Ukraine might be interested in. That’s largely up to Ukraine. Older US systems are a possibility,” Kendall added. 

“We will be open to discussions with them on what their requirements are and how we might be able to satisfy them.”

A-10 Thunderbolt
A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II. Image: US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Michael Battles

House Passes Bill to Train Ukraine Pilots in US

Brown and Kendall’s comments come on the heels of the US House of Representatives passing an amendment to the defense authorization bill last week, adding $100 million in funding to train Ukrainian pilots on US aircraft.

The amendment will be reviewed by the Senate, which could take months.

An author of the amendment, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), told Defense News that the amendment is intended to facilitate the Ukrainian air force’s transition away from Soviet-era technology.

“What we want to do is obviously send a message to authorize the process,” Kinzinger said.

“There is no doubt to me that when this war ends, Ukraine is going to have to be outfitted with western military equipment. Plus, there’s just no more MiGs left and no more MiG supplies.”

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