Brown said there are several possibilities, including US-made fighters or some made in Europe. Options include the gripen fighter made in Sweden, the Rafale made in France, and the Eurofighter Typhoonwhich is built by a consortium of companies in several countries.
“It’s going to be something non-Russian, I can probably tell you that,” Brown said during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “But I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be.”
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The discussion marks a departure from the start of the war, when the Biden administration ruled out facilitating a deal that would have sent some of Poland’s MiG fighters to Ukraine in exchange for US-made F-16s. Pentagon officials said in March that such a proposal was not “sustainable” and raised the possibility that participation in the exchange could heighten tensions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said European allies had the “green light” to send planes to Ukraine, but the United States wanted to avoid a direct conflict with Russia.
The prospect of training Ukrainian pilots to operate new aircraft is already gaining ground in Congress; last week, the House voted to commit $100 million to the effort as part of its version of the annual defense authorization bill. So far, however, Pentagon leaders have refused to endorse such a plan.
“There has been no decision on that,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday at a press conference alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. . “But we are looking at a wide variety of options, including pilot training.”
Austin and Milley spoke to reporters following the latest meeting of international military leaders working to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses, in the short term and for what many anticipate will be a years-long standoff with Russia. Austin indicated that, for now, the Biden administration’s priority remains the artillery war that Ukrainian troops are waging in the east of the country.
“Right now, our focus is helping them succeed in the fight they’re in and employ the weapon systems they’ll need to succeed in that fight,” he said. “As for predicting where we will be with pilot training months or years from now, I will not venture to do that.”
Add modern combat aircraft to the Ukrainian army would mark a massive upgrade. Ukrainian officials have for months searched for ways to bolster the country’s air force, which flew sparingly during the war and has to maneuver around Russian surface-to-air missiles.
Brown, the Air Force chief general, said the discussion was partly about “understanding where Ukraine wants to go and how we meet them where they are.”