Wicker Statement on Authorization of F-16 Training for Ukraine

Armed Services Leader: Ukraine Needs Air Defense, ATACMS, Not More Arms Delays

May 19, 2023

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today released the following statement regarding reports that the Biden administration has authorized training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 jets:

“President Biden’s delay in training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s is just the latest example of our allies seizing the initiative before the U.S. does,” Wicker said. “The administration’s “drip-drip-drip” approach to transferring arms has cost Ukraine valuable time. This strategy harms American interests by prolonging the war. President Biden should announce that the U.S. will be immediately providing area-denial weapons such as ATACMS and air defense systems.”

See the below fact sheet for a detailed timeline of President Biden’s delays in delivering critical arms for Ukraine:

March 9, 2022: U.S. rejects Poland's offer to give it Russian-made fighter jets for Ukraine, claiming it could provoke Russia (which had just started a land war in Europe).

March 10, 2022: The United States won’t give Patriot air defense system to Ukraine, claiming it may provoke Russia (which had bombed a maternity hospital killing hundreds of children, mothers, and doctors the day before).

May 18, 2022: Biden rules out giving Ukraine Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS) that can strike into Russia because it doesn’t want to provoke Russia (which had been bombarding apartments and other civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv).

May 31, 2022: Biden finally agrees to give Ukraine MLRS, but only if Ukraine promises not to fire them inside Russia.

June 15, 2022: Biden finally agrees to send Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, which will take several months to reach Ukraine. If the Harpoon missiles had been in Ukraine before the war (or even at the start of the war) they could have been used to deny Russian naval access and dominance.

August 9, 2022: Biden refuses to send ATACMS munition that Ukraine has requested, because the administration is concerned it would provoke Russia (which had recently struck residential buildings, a supermarket, and pharmacy in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv).

September 16, 2022: Biden administration holds off Ukrainian request for more long-range missiles for fear of provoking Russia (which had recently set up torture chambers in occupied Kharkiv).

October 10, 2022: Biden finally agrees to give Ukraine advanced air-defense systems after the Russians strike Kyiv with several missiles. The systems will take two months to arrive – if they had been sent two months earlier, they could have intercepted incoming missiles.

November 29, 2022: Eight months after saying it couldn’t provide Ukraine with Patriot missile defense systems, the Pentagon is considering sending Patriot batteries to Ukraine.

December 21, 2022: Nine months after refusing to provide Ukraine with Patriot missile defense systems, the United States reverses course and agrees to send Patriot batteries to Ukraine. WWIII does not commence.

January 20, 2023: Eleven months into the war, the Pentagon argues against sending tanks to Ukraine, saying they won’t get there in time and that training on the tanks takes months.

January 25, 2023: Pentagon sends Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks.

February 13, 2023: The U.S. tells Ukraine it won’t send long-range ATACMS missiles because it has few to spare – despite having nearly a whole year of war to increase production. This is a changing excuse from six months prior, when the justification was that it could provoke Putin.

February 24, 2023: Biden announces he has ruled out sending F-16 aircraft to Ukraine, saying they don’t need the weapons now and that, “we're sending [Ukraine] what our seasoned military thinks he needs now.

May 11, 2023: Britain announces that it is providing Storm Shadow missiles to give Ukraine more deep-strike capability.  The Biden administration still refuses to transfer ATACMS.

May 19, 2023:  Biden administration tells G-7 that it will support a joint training effort for F-16s.

Read more about Wicker’s work on national security here.