President Joe Biden told his G-7 counterparts on Friday that the United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, a senior U.S. official said.
As part of the decision, the United States will permit its Western allies to supply Ukraine with fighter jets, which include U.S.-made F-16s, reported BBC.
“The United States and our allies and partners have focused on providing Ukraine with the systems, weapons, and training that it needs to conduct offensive operations this spring and summer,” National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.
“We have turned to discussions about improving the Ukrainian Air Force as part of our long-term commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense,” he added.
Biden previously ruled out the possibility of the United States providing Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets. Ukraine has been pushing its allies for advanced warplanes to help defend its airspace, but the United States and its partners had feared this could lead to further escalation with Russia.
The F-16 is considered one of the world’s most reliable fighter jets, armed with precision-guided bombs and missiles. Its advanced targeting capabilities will enable Ukrainian forces to strike Russian targets with increased precision, even during nighttime or adverse weather conditions.
Other fourth-generation jets include France’s Mirage 2000 and the U.K.’s Eurofighter Typhoon.
An official said the training on F-16s will be conducted in Europe, which could take several months to complete, reported Reuters. He did not provide a specific start date but said the United States hopes to begin “in the coming week.”
“As the training unfolds in the coming months, we will work with our allies to determine when the planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them and how many,” the official said.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed Biden’s move and said that his nation will work with the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark “to get Ukraine the combat air capability it needs.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is traveling to Japan on Saturday for the summit, said he believed the United States “historic decision” will “greatly enhance our army in the sky.”
“I count on discussing the practical implementation of this decision at the G7 summit in Hiroshima,” Zelenskyy stated on Twitter.
‘Largest’ Set of Sanctions
Biden stated on Twitter that the G-7 leaders have placed on Russia “the largest set of sanctions and export control actions ever imposed on a major economy.”
“Today, we’re taking more action - disrupting Russia’s ability to source inputs for its war, closing evasion loopholes, restricting their access to the international finance system, and reducing reliance on Russian energy,” he stated.
In a joint statement, the G-7 leaders pledged to impose more sanctions on Russia to pressure Moscow to end its war in Ukraine, including restricting Russia’s access to their economies and use of the international financial system.
“We urge Russia to stop its ongoing aggression and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its troops and military equipment from the entire internationally recognized territory of Ukraine,” the statement reads.
“Russia started this war and can end this war,” the G-7 leaders added.
They agreed to strengthen coordination to prevent and respond to third parties supplying weapons to Russia and pledged to take action against third-country actors that materially assist Russia’s war.
The annual summit of the world’s most advanced democracies—the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada—is taking place Friday to Sunday 21 in Hiroshima.
Emel Akan and Ingólfur Stefánsson contributed to this report.