The Defense Department is already participating in providing training to help ready Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 aircraft. The U.S. also expects to be ready to make sure spare parts are available for those aircraft.
Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department indicated willingness to approve the third-party transfer of U.S.-made F-16 aircraft to Ukraine. The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have all announced intentions to do just that, pulling aircraft from their own fleets.
To ensure the Ukrainians are successful with those F-16s, Ukrainian pilots have been training in the U.S. and Europe on both flight operations and maintenance.
Once those F-16s are in the hands of the Ukrainians, however, support will not stop. There will need to be spare parts to ensure they can be sustained and keep flying. The U.S. is prepared to do that as well, said William A. LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, during a discussion Tuesday with Washington, D.C. news organization Politico.
LaPlante said that with whatever is sent to the Ukrainians — and the U.S. has committed $44.2 billion in hardware and ammunition since February 2022 — it’s important also that spare parts be made available to maintain that gear.
“Whatever we all deliver to the Ukrainians, provide 90 days of spares, please, please, that’s the rule of thumb — 90 days of spares,” he said.
LaPlante said the F-16 aircraft Ukraine will receive, worth nearly a billion dollars, are no exception to that policy. Those aircraft will need the right spare parts and in the right numbers.
“That’s what we’re going through right now … to make sure it happens,” he said. “They’ll have enough when they get there. We want … it to be sustained. And it’s oftentimes the thing that is forgotten.”
Without spares, he said the F-16s the Ukrainians fly could be grounded in just a few months.
“We’re not going to let that happen,” he said. “And just because other countries provide their airplanes, we have to make sure if they don’t provide the spares that we find the spares and provide them.”
The department isn’t alone in its efforts to ensure the Ukrainians will be able to keep their F-16s flying after they take custody of them or in concerns about Ukraine’s long-term ability to defend itself. The U.S. and partners, especially though the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, are working together to ensure Ukraine has what it needs and is also able to provide for itself, over the long term.
“We’re working really hard with U.S. industry and actually with the Europeans and other countries around the world to begin to coordinate these industry days with the Ukrainians,” LaPlante said, referring to daylong meetings where industry and military representatives meet to discuss procurement issues. “I think what you’re going to see is this pivot for U.S. companies and companies around the world to help the Ukrainians build back what they have.”