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Ukraine sends young pilots for training on NATO fighter jets

While the most experienced pilots perform combat tasks on older Soviet fighter jets, the new generation of Ukrainian pilots departed for F-16 and Gripen aircraft training.
Ghost of Kyiv
The mural “The Ghost of Kyiv” was painted in Kyiv to honor the “collective image” of the pilots of the 40th tactical aviation brigade that protected the skies above the Ukrainian capital from Russian attacks in the early days of the Russian full-scale invasion. Credit:
Ukraine sends young pilots for training on NATO fighter jets

That’s according to the Commander of Ukraine’s Air Force, Mykola Oleshchuk. He said on the TV air that young Ukrainian pilots who graduated in 2023 departed for training on F-16 fighter jets while another group that graduated in 2016 and already has combat experience departed to Sweden, presumably for training on Gripen aircraft.

As the commander of the Air Force, I understand that the future belongs to young pilots. Therefore, I made a decision, and the pilots of this year, 2023, went to study in the UK. As for Sweden, young pilots who graduated in 2016 and have sufficient combat experience went there,” Oleschuk said.

According to Oleshchuk, the training in these countries is quite flexible, and the instructors approach each pilot individually. In general, the total training is 32 months, but the actual length will depend on the experience of pilots. For example, two Ukrainian pilots whom the US instructors tested would be able to master the F-16 aircraft in four months, according to the conclusion.

Oleshchuk added that before sending the pilots to study, they were tested on their knowledge of the English language.

According to Oleshchuk, Ukraine is preparing runways and airports to receive F-16s. We are carrying out appropriate reconstruction, we are improving the surface, improving the infrastructure of the airfields, we are building new defense structures,” the commander said.

Previously, F-16s were operating in Ukrainian airfields during joint exercises. Ukrainian crews already have some experience in maintenance but also require additional training.

As was reported, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov, said on 19 August 2023 that Ukrainian pilots have already started training on Western F-16 fighter jets. Also, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during his visit to Sweden on 19 August 2023 that Ukrainian pilots have already tested Swedish Gripen aircraft, and they discussed the possible supply of this aircraft with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

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