Training of Ukrainian F-16 pilots appears to have been delayed

Training of Ukrainian F-16 pilots appears to have been delayed

Kiev, Ukraine (The Washington Post): Ukraine had hoped the F-16s would be ready for use by September. But it can take much longer than that.

Norwegian F-16 fighters photographed in August 2021.

The first group of six Ukrainian pilots probably won’t finish training on the F-16 fighter jet until next summer. This is according to the Ukrainian authorities and military officials.

Presumably, the reason was delays with Western partners.

Ukraine and the country’s Western backers have not fully agreed on the role combat aircraft should play. Ukraine’s supporters in the West envisioned that the F-16 could become an important tool for the country’s long-term defense.

Kiev wants to use fighters on the battlefield as soon as possible. They see the planes as crucial in the current battle against the Russian occupiers.

US President Joe Biden initially refused to give the planes to Ukraine for a whole year, before finally giving in in May this year. Since then, he has supported the idea of ​​training Ukrainian pilots and transferring aircraft from other countries.

Denmark and the Netherlands volunteered to lead the training. In Kiev, it was hoped that the first planes would be ready to defend Ukrainian airspace in September this year.

Now it looks like you have to wait a whole year.

Vulnerable to Russian helicopter attacks

Ukraine’s Defense Minister General Valeriy Zalogny criticized Western partners for expecting them to carry out a major offensive without modern air power. Without fighters like the F-16, Ukrainian officials say, they cannot compete in the air.

Frontline Ukrainian soldiers say low-flying Russian helicopters have successfully attacked their ground forces, in part because Ukraine has little semblance of a threat.

Ukrainian forces suffered heavy losses during this summer’s offensive. In the photo, the bombing of a Ukrainian armored car.

Requires language training for flight training

Only six pilots, half a squadron, will join the first round of training, according to Ukrainian officials. They speak anonymously because the topic is sensitive. Other pilots were identified as back-up candidates.

Even if pilots are fluent in English, they must first go through four months of English language training in the UK. There they will learn the terminology associated with the fighters.

The pilots will be trained at the same time as the ground crews, who may not be as good at English. Denmark demanded that all crew members be trained at the same time, rather than just training the pilots first. The Danish Ministry of Defense will not comment on the matter.

This means that fighter training will not be able to start until January. This education will take six months. The second group, which will consist of the same number of pilots, will be completed six months after that again, that is, at the end of 2024.

Most of the pilots remain in Ukraine

Another 20 Ukrainian pilots are ready to undergo training in English. Most of the pilots will remain in Ukraine. There they fly upgraded Soviet planes that can shoot down French SCALP and British Storm Shadowmissers.

Ukrainian pilots received training in English between flying missions, according to Brigadier General Serhiy Holubtsov of the Ukrainian Air Force.

– Additional training will be given to pilots and ground personnel in the terms necessary to train on the F-16, says Holubtsov.

– This training cannot be given in Ukraine, because we lack experience in this term.

Since the selected pilots already have a high level of basic English, he says, learning these terms “wouldn’t take a lot of time”.

Norway has promised to contribute

Ukraine actually ordered Western fighter jets shortly after the Russian invasion, but they didn’t get anywhere until this spring.

– We always gave them what they needed at the last minute, says Michael Clarke, who is a professor in the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London. Now we may want to give them what they need in hindsight.

During a NATO summit in July, Denmark and Ukraine said nine more countries would support the training, which was set to begin in August, namely the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden.

We’re in August now, and plans are still taking shape.

US officials say the Netherlands is in the process of setting up a training program in Romania, but it will take time.

One of the challenges is getting enough coaches in Europe. For example, the Netherlands is in the process of transitioning from using the F-16 to using the F-35.

Exclusive Norwegian right: Aftenposten

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Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

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