US defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin has said it stands ready to help Ukrainian pilots fly and maintain its F-16 fighter jets if NATO member states agree to send them to help the country against Russian aggression.
“We are standing by, ready to not only backfill need as it arises with new F-16 builds but also any modifications to F-16s as well as training, equipment and systems,” Frank St John, chief operating officer, in an interview with Financial Times.
Frank St John stressed that any decision would be made only as an outcome of dialogues between Ukraine, the US and other Western partners.
Lockheed Martin, the largest US defence contractor by sales, is not directly engaged in the government talks. The company has historically provided training support to more than 16 countries.
Denmark will support the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine – minister
Denmark will support the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine but will provide them to Ukraine only with the support of the United States, which produces F-16 aircraft.
The acting Danish Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen stated this, TV2 reports. According to the Danish minister, a coalition of countries is required to provide Ukraine with fighter jets.
Training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters may take 6 months – Reznikov
Training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters may take 6 months, but there is still time to say the exact timeframe for the US aircraft to be put into service.
The Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov, stated this. “Everyone is publicly discussing how long it will take Ukrainian pilots to master the F-16. The timeframe is well-known to everyone: after testing our two pilots in the United States, it is believed that up to six months will be enough. I’m optimistic that our experienced pilots, with their desire and drive, will probably fly faster,” Reznikov said.
Ukraine has lobbied heavily for the so-called fourth-generation aircraft to help bolster its air defences against Russian attacks. NATO countries remain in talks on whether to supply the jets to Ukraine.
US might back F16 transfer to Ukraine by third parties
The US government, which is unlikely to send any of its F-16s, controls the jets’ re-export or third-party transfers from any nation that operates these jets but showed its backing for such a move last month. Some Western allies still worry that supplying the F-16 jets could create an escalation of the conflict with Russia.
Lockheed weapons, including the guided multiple launch rocket system (GMLRS) and Javelin missiles, have played a significant role on the battlefield.
About 3,000 F-16s are in military service around the globe. Lockheed plans to boost production of the fighter jets at its location in Greenville, South Carolina, to four a month during the coming years.
The company expects increased demand for fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters in Eastern Europe as governments in the region strive to move away from Soviet-era equipment and invest in armaments in the context of Russian aggression and nuclear blackmail.
Lockheed recently signed an agreement with Rheinmetall, under which the German company will manufacture centre fuselages for the advanced F-35 jet. Parts of the F-16 aircraft are already being produced in Poland.