Dan Hampton, call sign “Two Dogs,” known as “the deadliest F-16 pilot” and one of the most experienced US military pilots, has proposed a solution to quickly turn the airspace over Ukraine into a no-fly zone for Russians. In a recent interview with the Voice of America, Hampton suggested that Western private pilots be allowed to pilot F-16s in Ukraine, and he even offered to defend Ukrainian skies personally.
During the interview, Hampton discussed the capabilities of F-16 aircraft and the challenges facing Ukraine and Ukrainian pilots in terms of the possible provision of these aircraft. While acknowledging that the training would be time-consuming and require Ukraine’s best pilots to go to the West, he proposed another idea that would allow Ukraine’s skies to be protected quickly. “A possible short-term solution for the Ukrainian government is to hire private contractors who are already F-16 pilots,” suggested Hampton. Although he admitted that it’s a policy issue that needs to be organized by governments, he believes it is “very possible.” Furthermore, Hampton is willing to defend Ukraine’s skies with F-16s if this option becomes available to private Western pilots.
In Hampton’s opinion, such a decision would help Ukraine buy time and ultimately win the war. “When the war is over, you can focus on sending your pilots abroad,” he said. He emphasized that Ukraine needs experienced military pilots “right now,” and every pilot sent to Arizona for training is one less pilot who can make a difference in the fight at present. He suggested that Ukraine arrange for the purchase of F-16s, which are the most affordable and already in Europe. Among the European countries that have these American aircraft in service are the air forces of Poland, the Netherlands, some Scandinavian countries, and the United States itself.
Hampton also emphasized the importance of surface-to-air missile systems and modern anti-aircraft weapons for the urgent defense of Ukrainian airspace. He believes that this, combined with private contractors piloting F-16s, would turn the airspace over Ukraine into a no-fly zone for Russians. “No one has ever won a war from the air,” he reminded, “but you can lose a war if you don’t control the airspace.”
Hampton concluded by saying that “there is access to such pilots” and enough American and European pilots would be willing to fly F-16s in Ukraine as private contractors. “This is a completely feasible option,” he assured, and he hopes the people in power in Ukraine will consider it.
Other notable points in his interview
Russian Su-35s are “rubbish” Regarding the difference between the F-16 and Russian fighters, Hampton had critical comments on the Su-35. While acknowledging that it looks impressive with its beautifully painted exterior, he stated that it’s not really that good of an aircraft. In fact, he went as far as to call it “rubbish.” One of the main issues he pointed out is that it doesn’t have an AESA radar, considered an advanced electronic scanning radar 30 years ahead of the radar on the Su-35. He also mentioned that the Su-35 is a large aircraft with two smoke engines, making it an easy target for long-range missiles. According to him, the Su-35 is more suited for air shows than actual air combat.
Mentality matters When asked about the main challenge in training and air combat for Ukrainian pilots, Hampton emphasized the importance of mentality. Drawing on his experience of training foreign pilots, he stated that pilots from the Middle East often struggle to learn from their mistakes because they don’t think the way Western pilots do. In contrast, he felt that Ukrainian pilots would be more adaptable, especially when it comes to accepting criticism and learning from their mistakes. He mentioned an old saying in the US military that “whatever your military rank is, it is removed during the debriefing,” meaning that everyone, regardless of their rank, is expected to learn from their mistakes and take feedback constructively. Hampton suggested that Ukrainian pilots would fit into this mindset easily, unlike some Russian pilots he had trained with in the past.
The hardest thing about mastering an F-16 Finally, when asked about the most challenging technical aspects of F-16 training, Hampton emphasized the importance of mastering the weapon systems. While he felt confident that he could get a MiG-29 off the ground and back on it, he pointed out that controlling all the weapon systems on an F-16 is a different story altogether. He explained that the F-16’s weapons systems are connected to all the sensors, making it an incredibly complex aircraft to operate effectively. However, with the right training, F-16 pilots can become proficient in close air combat, dropping bombs, firing missile cannons, and even flying at night using infrared targeting systems. According to Hampton, it’s this level of capability that takes time and effort to master.