The United States House of Representatives authorizes $100 million for training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-15 & F-16 fighter jets as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for American-made F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. But Ukrainian pilots accustomed to aging Soviet-era MiG-29s and Sukhoi planes have not been trained to use U.S. fighter jets, a process that could take months.
So far, the US government has been hesitant to send fighters to Ukraine, and efforts to persuade other NATO allies to send some of their old Soviet jets have also fallen through. However, the US and its allies did send some spare parts to Kyiv.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois and a former Air Force pilot, proposed the amendment, allowing the training of Ukrainian pilots and ground crews to become accustomed to American aircraft.
On July 15, Kinzinger tweeted: Last night the House passed my bipartisan Ukrainian Fighter Pilots Act, which authorizes the training of Ukrainian fighter pilots in the US. I urge the Senate to get this critical legislation to the President’s desk. Slava Ukraine!
Kinzinger introduced this legislation in June with Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, an Illinois Democrat and former Air Force officer, to enable Ukrainian personnel to begin training “on F-15s, F-16s, and other air platforms while the Administration continues to consider sending such equipment.”
The Senate’s version of the defense authorization bill isn’t expected to be voted on until September at the earliest, after which the conference committee will work to reach an agreement between the two chambers on compromise legislation.
But if the amendment passes and becomes law, that might lay the groundwork for Ukrainian Air Force pilots to begin receiving training on American-made aircraft. Additionally, this would offer an opportunity to deliver US-made aircraft to Kyiv.
The Biden administration is also worried about Moscow’s reaction should Ukrainian forces use top-tier American weapons to attack Russian territory. However, Kinzinger asserted that the Ukrainians could be trusted with these weapons.
Meanwhile, no information is available regarding the location of the Ukrainian pilots’ training. Kinzinger claimed that the United States is prepared to begin training Ukrainian pilots at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi and perhaps even in Texas.
The Senate is not expected to vote on its version of the defense authorization bill until September at the earliest, then both chambers must agree on compromise legislation in conference committee. Should Kinzinger’s amendment survive conference, the United States could be training Ukrainian pilots here as soon as next year.