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Air Force: Ukrainian F-16 pilots hone skills, technical crew preps for peer training

Ukrainian pilots are training in allied countries to fly F-16s, with two groups already honing their skills on the aircraft; training for technical personnel is also underway to prepare them to train others in Ukraine, as per Ukraine’s Air Force.
A Danish Air Force F-16BM combat trainer aircraft during a training flight. Photo via mil.in.ua
Air Force: Ukrainian F-16 pilots hone skills, technical crew preps for peer training

Ukrainian pilots in several groups are undergoing training in allied nations to fly F-16 fighter jets, with two groups currently refining their skills on the aircraft, stated Illya Yevlash, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, during a Ukrainian TV telethon, as reported by Liga.

Ukraine seeks F-16 fighter jets to counter Russia’s air superiority at the frontline, where Russian aircraft maintain an edge with longer-range capabilities despite Ukraine’s dense air defenses. The United States approved the transfer of F-16s from Denmark and the Netherlands last August, pending completion of pilot training. Training of Ukrainian pilots and ground personnel is ongoing, and Ukraine has yet to operate any F-16s.

Yevlash reports that two Ukrainian pilot groups are refining their F-16 skills in Denmark and the USA, with another group transitioning from the UK to France for light aircraft training.

Yevlash stated that an additional group is receiving ground training in England, primarily focusing on language studies, as English proficiency is crucial for operating foreign aircraft.

Previously, the UK Defense Ministry reported that the first ten Ukrainian pilots have completed intensive RAF flight training in the UK, covering basic flying, ground school, and language instruction. They will now advance to French Air Force training before learning to fly F-16 fighter jets for defending Ukraine’s skies against Russian forces.

In March, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis approved the training of 50 Ukrainian pilots on F-16 jets at the Fetești military base, with training expected to end by the year’s end. However, so far there were no reports that the Ukrainian pilots have started their training in Romania.

Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman Yevlash also mentioned that Ukrainian F-16 technical personnel are being trained to eventually instruct their peers in Ukraine.

In January, Nataliia Halibarenko, Head of Ukraine’s Mission to NATO, stated that at the extraordinary meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Council, the Allies favorably evaluated the preparations for deploying F-16 fighter jets in the country.

F-16 expected in summer

The F-16 training coalition, formed on 11 July 2023, aims to train Ukrainian Air Force personnel. Initially comprising 11 nations including Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, the coalition has expanded to include Greece and the United States. A training hub was planned in Romania with contributions from the Netherlands and Lockheed Martin.

The United States approved the donation of F-16 fighters to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands in August 2023. Belgium and Norway also announced intentions to donate F-16s. The first batch of 18 F-16s from the Netherlands might be delivered in the first half of 2024, with Ukraine set to receive the first F-16s in the summer of 2024.

In February, the Arizona National Guard reported that the first four Ukrainian pilots training in the US were set to finish their F-16 fighter jet training by summer, having started in mid-October, with twelve other airmen progressing in groups through August, according to CNN’s reporting.

Earlier Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that Ukraine is expected to receive F-16 jets by mid-summer. This timeline slightly adjusts previous expectations of delivery in spring or early summer. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that new fighter jets would enter service in Ukrainian skies this year as part of a Netherlands-led F-16 coalition.

In early March, NYT stated Ukraine might deploy six of some 45 promised F-16 jets by July to counter Russian air support, as the country urgently needs more weapons amid a munitions shortage.

In an interview, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukrainian pilots of F-16 multirole fighter jets would have the right to strike legitimate military targets outside Ukraine, i.e. on Russian territory.

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