Senator Kelly Statement on Plan to Train Ukrainian F-16 Pilots, Crews in Arizona
Kelly has pushed to evaluate F-16 transfers to Ukraine, and highlighted expertise in Arizona
Today, Arizona Senator and U.S. Navy combat veteran Mark Kelly issued the following statement on the announcement from the Department of the Defense that Ukrainian pilots and maintainers will be trained on the F-16 at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona. The 162nd Wing based at Morris ANG specializes in training foreign partners on the F-16.
“There is no better place in the world to get Ukrainian pilots and maintainers trained up and into the fight with the F-16 than Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson,” said Senator Kelly. “The F-16 will bring significant new capabilities to the Ukrainian Air Force, and I appreciate the Administration’s assessment and planning that has gone into standing up these training programs with our allies while also working to supply Ukraine with the weapons and ammunition they need now. I’m proud of the continued role that Arizona will play in supporting Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”
A former combat and test pilot, Kelly has discussed training and transferring F-16s to Ukraine with Ukrainian, U.S., and allied leaders since early in the conflict, including at the Munich Security Conference in March. He led a bipartisan letter that month to the Secretary of Defense, urging him to assess the necessary factors to transfer F-16s to Ukraine and develop a plan to expeditiously train Ukrainian pilots and sustainment personnel. Kelly later met with the 162nd Wing officers who assessed Ukrainian pilots on F-16 simulators in Arizona. Finally, he discussed the fighter jets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to Ukraine in April and has since continued to monitor progress in cooperation with U.S. defense and diplomatic officials, highlighting the training expertise of the 162nd Wing in Tucson, Arizona.
Last month, Kelly published an op-ed in the New York Times with Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth urging continued support for Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia.