US to start training Ukrainians on F-16 fighter jets, Pentagon says

Announcement was made on Ukraine’s Independence Day

Pentagon spokesman Brig Gen Pat Ryder takes a question from a reporter during a briefing in Washington. AP
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The US will start training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets as soon as October, the Pentagon announced on Thursday.

Before training can begin, however, the “several pilots and dozens of maintainers” expected to begin the programme will require language training to better understand the complex machinery.

“Although some Ukrainian pilots have English language skills, we are anticipating that all the pilots coming to the United States will require some level of additional English language instruction given the complexities in the specialised English that's required to fly these aircraft,” said Pentagon spokesman Brig Gen Pat Ryder.

Once finished with English lessons, the Ukrainian pilots will head to Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, to begin training on the powerful aircraft.

The US announcement comes after the Netherlands and Denmark began training Ukrainian pilots on the fighter jets.

Last week, the US military said it would only start a US-based training programme if their European allies reached capacity.

Now the Pentagon says it wants to “pre-emptively” start training Ukrainian pilots.

“As we looked at our European allies providing this training, recognising the fact that we want to do everything we can to help move this effort along as quickly as possible in support of Ukraine, we know that as the Danes and the Dutch prepare to train those pilots, that at a certain point in time in the future, capacity will be reached,” Brig Gen Ryder said.

Training is expected to be a lengthy process. It typically takes a new pilot eight months to master the F-16, while an experienced pilot may be able to learn the aircraft in about months, Brig Gen Ryder added.

“There will be additional training on air combat manoeuvring, tactical intercepts, close air support, suppression of enemy air defences and then all of that leading up to your mission qualification training, which then allows your instructor to certify that your combat ready so those are the kinds of things that go into training a fighter pilot,” he continued.

The Pentagon spokesman added that, in addition to pilots, the US would need to train mechanics on how to maintain the aircraft.

Updated: August 24, 2023, 8:25 PM