The US Defense Department has announced that it will begin to train Ukrainians to fly and maintain F-16 fighter jets in the coming months.
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the training was expected to begin in October at the Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona.
The programme will be facilitated by the Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing.
The US-led training is “in support of the international effort to develop and strengthen Ukraine’s long-term defences”, Ryder said.
US to train Ukrainians over several months
Ryder said the complete training pipeline would likely take several months, depending upon the pilots’ proficiency coming into the course.
“Part of this training will be assessing the individual pilots’ skill level, which will determine help to determine how long that training will last,” he said. “Your basic, new F-16 pilot with not a lot of training on the US side, that training typically lasts about eight months.”
That training includes a series of courses ranging from basic flight training to instruction on fighter fundamentals, weapons employment, combat maneuvering and tactical intercepts among other concepts.
He said training for more experienced pilots could be completed in about five months.
The Netherlands and Denmark have announced their intentions to make F-16 aircraft from their fleets available to Ukraine.
Third-party transfer of the US-made F-16s to Ukraine
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has signalled Washington’s willingness to approve the third-party transfer of the US-made F-16s to Ukraine in a letter to his European counterparts.
“The training provided by the United States will complement the F-16 pilot and maintenance training that’s already underway in Europe and further deepens our support of the F-16 training coalition led by Denmark and the Netherlands,” Ryder said.
“Moving forward we will remain in close consultation with the Danes, the Dutch and other allies to ensure US training complements the broader coalition training efforts.”
Ryder added that by announcing the training, the US is preempting any training capacity constraints in Denmark and the Netherlands’ training pipeline to ensure the aircraft are fielded to Ukraine as quickly as possible.
He said Ukraine will ultimately determine the number of pilots that will require the training.