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Ukrainian pilots begin training in France before F-16 transition

Ukrainian fighter pilots are undergoing initial training in France, with plans to transition to F-16 jet training, supported by a collaborative European effort to strengthen Ukraine’s aerial capabilities against Russian aggression.
A Danish Air Force F-16BM combat trainer aircraft during a training flight. Photo via
Ukrainian pilots begin training in France before F-16 transition

The French Defense Minister announced on 12 April that future Ukrainian fighter pilots, likely to operate American F-16 aircraft, are beginning their training in southern France with the French Air Force, as part of a European effort to boost Ukraine’s air capabilities, AFP reports.

Following approval from the United States last fall, other countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark, and Romania, are actively seeking to assist Ukraine in training its F-16 pilots. Ukraine seeks F-16 jets to counter Russia’s air superiority, as Russian aircraft outmatch Ukraine’s defenses with longer-range capabilities. The US approved the transfer of F-16s from Denmark and the Netherlands, contingent on completed pilot training. Currently, twelve Ukrainian pilots are expected to be combat-ready this summer after training in Denmark, Britain, and the US. However, upon their return, only about six of the promised 45 F-16s from European allies may have been delivered, as per the NYT’s earlier report.

Now, in an interview with Ouest France, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu stated that the pilots are undergoing “general training on the Alpha Jet, a Franco-German military aircraft, to learn the fundamentals of flying a fighter jet,” according to AFP.

According to AFP’s military source, a dozen Ukrainians, some previously trained in Britain, are currently undergoing “advanced training” for several months at an undisclosed location to learn how to fly fighter jets to later participate in specialized F-16 programs in allied countries operating the F-16s. Like the UK, France doesn’t have F-16s.

Lecornu also highlighted that the French Armed Forces have successfully adapted AASM air-to-ground guided bombs for use on Soviet-era aircraft operated by Ukraine.

“We have taken the lead in equipping Ukraine with these AASM bombs,” the Minister stated.

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