The United Kingdom is expanding its training of Ukrainian forces to “fighter jet pilots”, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced Wednesday as Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in London on a surprise visit on an RAF jet.
The British Prime Minister is “proud” to announce the United Kingdom is to start training Ukrainian pilots on jet fighters, which he says combined with long-term pledges to provide equipment to the invaded nation will allow the country to defend itself in the coming years.
Per The Guardian, the Prime Minister said on Wednesday morning shortly before President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in London for talks in which he will meet with Sunak at Downing Street, address Parliament, and meet with the King, that:
I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future.
It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come.
Speaking in Parliament Wednesday afternoon, the Prime Minister expanded upon this, saying this extra training was needed for Ukraine to “mount further offences”. He said:
Vladimir Putin’s aggression cannot be seen in any way to have been sucessful. And that’s why we have accelerated and increased our support militarily for Ukraine this year, a decision I took as Prime Ministeer.
Today we go even further, not just providing Challenger Tanks and being one of the first countries to do so, which catalysed the provision of tanks from other nations as well, but also today to move to start training Ukranian Marines in the advanced capabilities they need to mount further offensives. But also to train their pilots on advanced combat aircraft.
It is reported this training for jet pilots will specifically be on “NATO-standard fighter jets”, which makes clear — if true — that Western donations of some of the world’s most impactful and advanced weapons systems to Ukraine is on the horizon. The training of Ukrainian pilots to operate jet fighters also squares the circle of how Western allies can boost Ukraine’s air defence and offence without becoming directly involved themselves, by deploying NATO pilots.
The revelation of training for Ukrainian pilots comes just days after Kyiv (Kiev) expressed his confidence that Western nations would indeed agree to hand over fighter jets, pointing out Ukraine had already been given everything else it asked for so far. More than 10,000 Ukrainian troops have already been trained in the UK in agreements that even predate the present war, on using equipment from man-portable anti-tank missiles to main battle tanks.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday morning that the purpose of Zelensky’s surprise trip to London was a “bid for more advanced weapons” in anticipation of a fresh Russian offensive.
Fighter jets do not appear to be the end of Ukraine’s “wish list to Santa”, however, with recent requests running to an attack submarine and a naval frigate to allow the country to assert control over the Black Sea, and long-range missiles.