Report: US assess Ukrainians pilots could be trained to fly F-16 in four months
An internal US Air Force assessment concludes it would take only four months to train Ukrainian pilots to operate American-made F-16 fighter jets, far exceeding the Pentagon’s expectation, Yahoo News reports.
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Ukraine has long been asking for modern fighter jets, claiming that its current Soviet-era aircraft are not capable of countering offensives of Russian forces and are too old to be combat-effective.
The United Kingdom has so far been the only country that announced a training programme for Ukrainian pilots, with the Netherlands and Belgium saying they are mulling following suit.
They are also part of a newly-formed ‘jet coalition’, similar to the ‘tank coalition’, which expedited the delivery of critically needed armoured capabilities.
The US Air Force document, which was shared with a number of NATO allies who fly F-16s, reportedly contains a detailed assessment undertaken in late February and early March at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, home to the 162nd Wing of the US Air Force.
Two Ukrainian airmen, one qualified on the MiG-29, the other on the Su-27, were assessed to have been given "no formal training" on the F-16. They were then tested on a flight simulator, conducting nine simulator events covering 11.5 total hours.
The pilots were assessed by four experienced US Air Force instructors, each of whom had clocked thousands of hours flying F-16s.
The Ukrainian pilots were reportedly able to carry out a number of "relatively technical" manoeuvres in their simulated environments such as landing the aircraft after losing an engine.
Both pilots were also able to "execute mock attacks based on parameters communicated while they were flying the sim[ulator]", the assessment reportedly states.
The main training issue was the English interface of the F-16 avionics, although both Ukrainian pilots showed "noted improvement in English aptitude" over the course of two weeks.
Both the Su-27 and MiG-29 pilots were also unfamiliar with flying US standard multi-aircraft formations, having been trained on Soviet-era tactics.
The assessment concludes that "given the current skill set demonstrated by the Ukrainian Air Force pilot ... four months is a realistic training timeline."