Ukrainian pilots training on F-16 fighter jets in the United States are expected to complete their training by the end of 2024, the US Defence Department Spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder said on 4 January.
According to Ukraine’s Air Forces, the F-16 is expected to boost Ukraine’s air force in the ongoing war with Russia and become Ukraine’s primary combat aircraft. Before operating these machines, the US agreed to head up a coalition of countries training Ukrainian pilots and crews to operate and maintain F-16 fighter jets alongside the Netherlands and Denmark, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on 11 October in Brussels, Politico reported.
Currently, a group of Ukrainian pilots is continuing flight training at an airbase in Arizona. According to Ryder, the training can last five to eight months, depending on the pilots’ skill levels.
“I expect that by the end of the year, these pilots will complete their training, but I cannot provide a more specific timeframe,” the US Defence Department Spokesperson said.
Previously, a small group of Ukrainian pilots who arrived in the US in September 2023 underwent language training at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. In Arizona, the Ukrainians are first studying the basics of F-16 operations and then moving on to flying real aircraft. At the same time, the course can be accelerated due to the need for Ukrainians to return home to participate in combat operations.
On 3 January, Norway announced it would send two F-16 fighter jets to assist in training Ukrainian pilots on the US-made aircraft in Denmark, Reuters reported, citing Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram.
On 22 December, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Dutch government would deliver 18 F-16 jets to Ukraine.
At the beginning of 2024, France will join the training of Ukrainian pilots on Western multi-role fighters, the French Ministry of Defense announced back in December.