UA TV went into the cockpit of a flight simulator which is identical to the MiG-29, or Fulcrum, as it’s known by NATO. It’s where Ukrainian pilots practice taking off from any airfield at any time and in any weather. They’ll perform complex aerobatic maneuvers, test their combat abilities against air, land and sea targets. The simulator will also prepare pilots for emergency situations — such as a burnt out engine or being hit by enemy fire. And, given the time each pilot will spend here, it’s something they’ll rarely forget.
Oleksandr Koretskyi, head of the MiG-29 flight simulator, told that a pilot has to fly about 30 hours a year on this flight simulator, depending on the class of the pilot, and each pilot, even an experienced one, needs 20-40 minutes on the simulator, before an actual mission, depending on the tasks to be performed in flight.
The main airplanes in Ukraine’s military airforce are the MiG-29 and L-39. They now take off daily. Since the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine, flights have increased significantly. If a pilot logged less than 10 flight hours a year prior to 2014, now he’s sure to spend between 60 to 80 hours in the sky per year.
Oleh Hes, Ukrainian airforce:
“At the current moment, in accordance with the Minsk Agreements, missions cannot be executed in the conflict zone. So we carry out assignments required by the combat training courses near our airfield. Additionally, flight crews fulfill assignments to protect the airspace near the state border of Ukraine. Our brigade is constantly on alert.”
Nearly every pilot logs two flights per week, usually lasting 40-to-50 minutes. They generally fly at speeds of between 400 and 900 km/h and at heights of between 300 meters and 5 kilometers, although the aircraft are capable of much more. Volodymyr Kravchenko, the commander of a tactical aviation brigade, told that they are constantly on guard:
“We must always we ready to carry out assignments. Other than aerobatics, the aircraft can intercept air targets at altitudes of between 25 km and lower. The range of destruction of intermediate-range missiles is about 50km. The aircraft also allows us to carry out assignments related to destroying land-based targets by switching the type of weapon from missiles to bombs.”
Ukrainian Air Force commanders acknowledge that they’re making a bet on the youngest generation of Ukrainians. They’re allocating more time to young pilots, hoping to improve their skills and prepare them to be ready to defend their homeland — and air — at any moment.