US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Defense Contact Group on Ukraine on Thursday that equipping it with air defense systems was “crucial” and stressed that training Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets should begins in the coming weeks, reports EFE, taken over by Agerpres.
“We hope that these trainings will start in the coming weeks. This will strengthen and improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian Air Force in the long term and complement our security agreements in the short and medium term,” he said at the opening of a new virtual meeting of the group.
This coalition is made up of defense chiefs from all the countries that have provided military aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, and at this new meeting they are looking at Ukraine’s military needs and other issues, such as the training of Ukrainian pilots to could operate F-16 aircraft.
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said earlier this week that the use of the F-16s “will not be relevant” to the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the short term, as their delivery is part of the “long-term commitment” to Ukraine .
The “most important” equipment supplied to Ukraine at the moment are land-based air defense systems, Lloyd Austin said, stressing: “These crucial systems protect Ukrainian skies and civilian infrastructure from Russian aggression.”
In total, according to calculations, all the countries that are part of this group have pledged to provide Ukraine with military aid worth almost 65 billion dollars.
Russia “hoped that our resolve would waver and that our unity would break. Instead, we are more united than ever and everyone can see it,” said Lloyd Austin, urging his partners to “dig deeper and continue to look for creative ways to boost” their industrial capacity.
Editor : A.C.
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