WATCH: Sen. Kelly Meets with Ukrainian Pilots, Flies in F-16 Fighter Jet at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson
Kelly successfully advocated for the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine, which will bring significant new capabilities to their Air Force
Click here to download photos and video
Last week, Arizona Senator and former Navy pilot Mark Kelly visited Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, where he met with Ukrainian pilots training at the base and flew in an F-16 Fighting Falcon jet. Kelly has advocated for the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine to counter Russian air superiority since the early days of the invasion.
The Department of Defense (DoD) announced in August that the U.S. would transfer F-16s to Ukraine once aircrews had been trained. In October, a small number of Ukrainians arrived at Morris, where the 162nd Wing of the Arizona National Guard serves as the Air Force’s training wing for international pilots. As a former Naval aviator, Kelly previously met with the 162nd Wing officers who assessed Ukrainian pilots in Arizona and has monitored their progress since. He has also visited Ukraine twice this year.
“In Ukraine’s fight for freedom, Arizona has played an important role by serving as a training base for Ukrainian pilots, and it was exciting to see the support we’re providing in action. The F-16 will bring important new capabilities to Ukraine’s air defense, and there is no better place to train Ukrainian pilots than Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson,” said Senator Kelly.
Click here to download photos and video of the visit.
Kelly has discussed transferring F-16s to Ukraine since early in the conflict, including at the Munich Security Conference in March. He then led a bipartisan letter urging the Secretary of Defense to assess transferring F-16s and to develop a plan to expeditiously train Ukrainian aircrews. Kelly later discussed the fighter jets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his first visit to Ukraine in April. Following the DoD’s announcement that Ukrainians would be trained at Morris, Kelly traveled to Ukraine for the second time and met with Ukrainian pilots to discuss how the F-16 could be used effectively.
As a former naval aviator, Kelly flew 39 combat missions in Operation Desert Storm and logged more than 5,000 hours in more than 50 different aircraft as a Navy test pilot.