U.S. to train Ukrainians on F-16s in Arizona

August 25, 2023

The Pentagon announced Thursday that the U.S. will begin training Ukrainians on flying F-16s in Arizona this fall.

Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said the training on the F-16 fighter jets was set to begin in October at Morris Air National Guard Base near Tucson. Training is to be led by the Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing and is to involve dozens of Ukrainian maintenance personnel as well as several pilots, after they first undergo English language training in Texas in September.

“We want to do everything we can to help move this effort along as quickly as possible in support of Ukraine,” Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon. “So preemptively, acknowledging that and leaning forward in order to assist with this effort is the impetus for why we’re doing this now.”

The Pentagon’s announcement comes about a week after the Biden Administration gave the go-ahead to NATO allies Denmark and the Netherlands to send some of their F-16s to Ukraine to aid in its 18-month war against Russia.  

On Thursday—Ukraine Independence Day—NATO member Norway also announced that it would donate some of its F-16s.

“Norway will provide F-16s to Ukraine. The best news for our Independence Day,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted on social media. “During our talks, I thanked Prime Minister [Jonas Gahr Store] and all Norwegians for this and other crucial support.”

Ukraine’s President also wrote that his Administration would be ” glad to hold one of the next rounds of Peace Formula talks in Oslo.”

Zelensky had been asking for F-16s for months. After first hesitating, President Biden told Group of Seven (G-7) leaders at their summit in May that the U.S. will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on the jets.

F-16 training is already occurring Europe. This week, eight Ukrainian pilots began training in Denmark, which plans to provide Ukraine with 19 of the fighter jets.

The Danish Defense Ministry last week said that a coalition of 11 countries would be training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16s starting this month in Denmark.  

At the Pentagon, Ryder said a multistep training process would include assessments of Ukrainian pilots’ skill levels. 

Initial training for F-16 pilots typically lasts eight months, according to Ryder, and more advanced training can take another five. The Ukrainian pilots will receive instruction in such areas as air combat maneuvers and weapons use, and they’ll undergo centrifuge training, which simulates the effect of the powerful G-force that F-16 pilots experience in flight.

“This is going to help you transition from being a basic pilot mind-set to a fighter pilot mind-set,” he said.

PHOTO: F-16 Fighting Falcons

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