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Ukrainian pilots undergo six-month basic training in France before advancing to F-16

Young Ukrainian pilots, aged 20 to 22, are undergoing a six-month initial training phase in France, preparing for subsequent specialized F-16 training in the USA or European nations with these aircraft.
A Danish Air Force F-16BM combat trainer aircraft during a training flight. Photo via mil.in.ua
Ukrainian pilots undergo six-month basic training in France before advancing to F-16

Ten Ukrainian pilots are currently at an airbase in southwest France, learning the basics of aerial combat as part of the training for 45 F-16s arriving in Ukraine this summer, BFMTV reports.

After the United States approved last fall, countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, and Romania are helping train Ukrainian F-16 pilots to counter Russia’s air superiority. Currently, twelve Ukrainian pilots are being trained in Denmark, Britain, and the US, and are expected to be combat-ready this summer. However, upon their return, only about six of the promised 45 F-16s from European allies may have been delivered, as per media reports.

The beginning of training in France was announced on 12 April by French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu, who stated that future Ukrainian fighter pilots likely to operate American F-16 aircraft are starting their training in southern France with the French Air Force. France doesn’t operate F-16s.

France and the UK train young Ukrainian pilots

AFP previously stated that according to a 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. BFMTV says there are only four in France.

France is not supplying fighter jets currently but takes part in training ten Ukrainian pilots, aged 20 to 22, selected by Ukraine’s General Staff, BFMTV says. Six pilots are currently in the UK mastering English, essential for NATO pilots, and learning basic aeronautics. The other four, who have experience flying civilian aircraft or training on Ukraine’s L-39 trainer jets, are in southwestern France learning aerial combat, as confirmed by Sébastien Lecornu, French Defense Minister.

The young pilots are the ones receiving training abroad because the experienced aviators have remained in Ukraine to fly the fleet’s aircraft amid the ongoing all-out Russo-Ukrainian war.

BFMTV says new Ukrainian aviators will undergo the same training as French pilots in half the time, using simulators and retired Alpha Jets. After completing 80 flight hours in a six-month training period, the students will advance to F-16 piloting, either in the USA or in a European country that operates these American aircraft.

Dassault Aviation describes the Alpha Jet as a “two-seater tandem jet for training and tactical support,” which was designed for the French and German air forces. 

Ukraine may receive 45 F-16s

BFMTV reports that this summer, 45 F-16s are expected to be delivered to the Ukrainian army. According to the think tank Ifri, Denmark will provide 19 jets – 14 in 2024 and five in 2025. Norway is reportedly contributing 22, with the remaining aircraft sourced from the Netherlands and Belgium.

While some pilots are trained in Europe, with France training a portion of them, the technical teams, including mechanics, are likely to be trained in the USA, according to BFMTV. Each aircraft requires a crew of about a dozen people, including the pilots.

Earlier, the Ukrainian Air Force spokesman reported that two Ukrainian pilot groups were refining their F-16 skills in Denmark and the USA, with another group transitioning from the UK to France for light aircraft training. He also mentioned that Ukrainian F-16 technical personnel are being trained to eventually instruct their peers in Ukraine.

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