The U.S. military is reportedly evaluating two Ukrainian pilots for skills with attack aircraft, including F-16s at an Air Force base in Arizona.
The pair of pilots are taking simulator assessments this week, and the U.S. could accept as many as 12 pilots for the program, according to NBC. U.S. military trainers are reportedly seeking to both expand the pilots’ skills and evaluate how long it would take to fully train Ukrainian pilots on certain equipment.
“The program is about assessing their abilities as pilots so we can better advise them on how to use capabilities they have and we have given them,” an administration official told the outlet.
News of the program comes weeks after Ukrainian officials pleaded with the U.S. and Germany to provide fighter jets for their war effort. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, called on the U.S. to supply F-16s in particular.
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President Biden previously rejected calls to provide F-16s, however, telling reporters in late January that the U.S. would not send any.
The U.S. recently committed to sending 60 Bradley armored fighting vehicles and 31 M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine. The U.S. Defense Department had previously recommended against sending the Abrams vehicles, arguing the German Leopard 2 tanks were better suited to the conflict.
The U.S. has long resisted sending warplanes to Ukraine, including Soviet-era jets from neighboring nations like Poland, over concerns it could escalate the war beyond Ukraine’s boundaries.
While Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks will reach the front lines of Ukraine in a matter of weeks, it will take months for Ukrainian troops to be trained on how to use and maintain Abrams tanks.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.
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