Taken together, the moves signal a new sense of urgency from Washington to get fighter jets to the battlefield as soon as possible. The move to green light Denmark’s request to transfer training materials — such as instruction manuals and flight simulators — is the last bureaucratic hurdle on the U.S. side before the training can begin.
The program will begin “soon,” said the first U.S. official. All three individuals were granted anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.
Ukraine has sent the U.S. a list of 32 pilots it says are ready for training, but the official said only eight have the English language skills to complete the course. The other 24 must go through an English language instruction program run by the United Kingdom before they can start training on the jets.
On Wednesday, a Ukrainian official said that Kyiv was not expecting to receive the jets this year, meaning they would not be available for the current counteroffensive.
Meanwhile, Denmark and the Netherlands had asked for U.S. assurances that it would quickly approve their requests to transfer aircraft to Ukraine, once the pilots are trained, according to the first U.S. official.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent letters to his Danish and Dutch counterparts earlier this week providing those assurances, according to the first U.S. official and a State Department spokesperson.
Denmark and the Netherlands, which are leading a coalition of 11 countries to train F-16 pilots, still have not officially said they would send jets to the battlefield. But the letter from Blinken signals that when they do request the third-party transfer, Washington will move quickly to approve it.
“The United States is in active discussions with our European partners about how we can support the efforts to provide Ukraine with F-16 pilot training as quickly as possible,” the State Department spokesperson said.