Ukrainian pilots to start F-16 training in early 2024, report says

11.08.2023, 12:32
Ukrainian pilots to start F-16 training in early 2024, report says - Photo
Photo: Jorge Reyes Mariano / USAF

The combat training of the first group of Ukrainian pilots for F-16 fighter jets is not expected to begin sooner than January, delaying the plans laid out earlier, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing numerous sources.

Only six pilots will undergo the first stage of training, with two more identified as reserve candidates, two Ukrainian officials told the WP.

They say Ukraine does not understand why the United States, which has a much larger staff of instructors than its allies in Europe, does not conduct training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where more than 400 American pilots are trained to fly the F-16 in a seven-month programme every year.

“This is called dragging it out,” one Ukrainian official said, speaking on conditions of anonymity. The two Ukrainian officials said they were reluctant to be too critical of the US and European countries “for fear of appearing ungrateful”.

Meanwhile, US officials said that Ukraine had nominated only eight pilots so far. One of them said the Biden administration had recently received a list of names.

"Ukraine only has a handful of pilots that are ready to begin training and roughly two dozen more that they’ve told us need some additional English language training before the pilots can move forward," they said.

“Those small numbers have raised questions in Washington about how prepared Kyiv is to launch such an ambitious program in the midst of an existential fight,” the Washington Post reports.

Another 20 Ukrainian pilots are ready for training in the United Kingdom, US officials said, adding that most of Ukraine’s ace pilots will remain at home to fly combat missions in Soviet-era aircraft and continue to work with SCALP and Storm Shadow long-range missiles.

European officials say that although some of the Ukrainian pilots already speak fluent English, they must first attend four months of English classes in the UK to learn aircraft-related terminology. This training will take place alongside ground staff who may have less English.

Combat training for Ukraine's most experienced pilots will last six months, but Western allies have offered a separate two-year course for newcomers.

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