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First Ukrainian pilots who undergo F-16 training probably won’t be ready to fly them until next summer – Washington Post

Norwegian F-16. Photo: Norwegian Air Force
First Ukrainian pilots who undergo F-16 training probably won’t be ready to fly them until next summer – Washington Post

A first group of six Ukrainian pilots is not expected to complete training on the US-made F-16 before next summer, the Ukrainian government and military officials said, according to The Washington Post.

Just six pilots, about half a squadron, will go through the first round of training and two other pilots have been identified as reserve candidates, two Ukrainian officials informed.

Though the pilots are already fluent in English, they must first attend four months of English lessons to learn the terminology associated with the jets. Denmark requested to train entire pilots together with ground staff who may be less proficient in English. The Danish Ministry of Defense declined to comment on how long the program would take, or respond to questions about potential delays. A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Defense, Lt. Col. Mark van de Beek, said that the key challenge is the shortage of F-16 trainers in Europe. According to him, the training itself is expensive and must proceed step by step. 

That pushes back the start of combat training, which is expected to take six months, to January, the Ukrainian officials said. A second group of about the same size would be ready six months after that, or roughly the end of next year.

Brig. Gen. Serhii Holubtsov, aviation chief for Ukraine’s Air Force, says that Ukrainian pilots have been taking English classes online for the past year. However, additional specialized training is required for the F-16 training. 

Holubtsov said that F-16s come with a radar allowing Ukraine to intercept missiles and drones and target Russia’s navy, which regularly launches missiles from the Black Sea. High-speed, anti-radiation missiles, or HARMs, provided by the United would also be launched from F-16s, he added. 

Though the combat training for Ukraine’s most experienced pilots is expected to take six months, Western allies have proposed a separate track that would require more than two years of training, including English lessons.


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