An American assessment of Ukrainian fighter pilots has revealed they would be ready to fly F-16 jets after fewer than six months of training, Ukrainian Air Force Commander Gen. Serhii Holubtsov told The Times.
He says two Ukrainian fighter jet pilots returned to Ukraine last week after an assessment by the US military:
“They spent three weeks there and were trained on an F-16 simulator how to fly together as two pilots using weapons. The results came out very good: Ukrainian pilots can learn to fly and operate weapons systems on the F-16 in less than six months,” Gen. Holubtsov said.
Some Nato allies had previously thought it would take years to train Ukrainian pilots on Western aircraft. Last week Poland and Slovakia agreed to send Ukraine Soviet-era Mig-29s. Pressure on NATO member states to supply more modern jets is mounting.
“I am losing some of my best people because of the lack of proper equipment. The sooner we have all the help we need, the sooner we win this war, the more lives we save. I’m grateful for everyone in Britain who cares, for every bit of help provided,” Holubtsov said.
Currently, the Russians have newer and more advanced combat aircraft, which outclass a small number of antiquated MiG-29 and Su-27 aircraft operated by the Ukrainian Air Force.
“The Russians have much longer-range radars and munitions on newer jets. They use a missile with a 200km range to take out our S-300 air defenses, which have a range of 150km, then 1,500 kg guided bombs to attack front-line towns like Vuhledar, Bakhmut, and Mariinka. If we had F-16s with AIM 120 missiles and a range of 180km, we could push the Russian planes much further back,” Gen. Serhii Holubtsov told The Times.
According to the general, it is impossible to put as many ground air defenses as are needed to effectively cover the huge territory of Ukraine, and fighter jets are needed to cover the gaps between air defense systems.
“Our jets were developed 40 years ago to be part of the Soviet system and they were built to work together with the Russian air force,” he said. “What we need now are the jets that were built to fight the Russians,” Holubtsov says.
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