Ukrainian pilots are expected to begin flight training on the F-16 fighter jets in October to strengthen Ukraine’s long-term security needs and its defenses against Russian invasion. The U.S. Air Force’s 162nd Wing will facilitate the exercises at Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, unveiled the plan to reporters on Thursday after American and European officials confirmed that the U.S. authorized the transfer of F16s from the Netherlands and Denmark to Kyiv.
The pilots will undergo an English language course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in September as part of the training. While some Ukrainian pilots have English language skills, the F-16 flying module requires “some level of additional English language instruction, given the complexities and the specialized English that’s required to fly these aircraft,” the press secretary explained.
The series of courses will include basic flight training, instruction on fighter fundamentals, weapons employment, combat maneuvering and tactical intercept. Ryder said the time needed to complete the program depends on the pilots’ skill level. A new aviator might take eight months to finish the courses compared to only five months for an experienced pilot.
The F-16 training in the U.S. will complement an F-16 pilot and maintenance training already underway in Europe.
It is still unclear exactly when the Netherlands and Denmark will deliver the F-16s to Ukraine. According to a Breaking Defense report, Denmark plans to transfer fighter jets to Kyiv after receiving new F-35 aircraft.