Defense Department announces it will now TRAIN Ukrainian pilots, ground crews on F-16s in Arizona

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced on Thursday that it will begin training Ukrainian pilots and ground crews to fly F-16 fighter jets in Arizona.

Last week, the Biden administration approved the sending of the American-made jets to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands, Reuters reported, despite fears that it could trigger fury from Moscow.

“We welcome Washington’s decision to pave the way for sending #F16 Fighter Jets to Ukraine,” said the Netherlands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wopke Hoekstra. “Many thanks to [Secretary of State Antony Blinken]  for the good and swift cooperation. Now, we will further discuss the subject with our European partners.”

On Thursday, the Defense Department stated it expects to begin training the Ukrainians at the Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona.

The training “will be facilitated by the Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing,” according to the DOD.

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the effort is “in support of the international effort to develop and strengthen Ukraine’s long-term defenses.”

“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 explained. “Moving forward we will remain in close consultation with the Danes, the Dutch and other allies to ensure U.S. training complements the broader coalition training efforts.”

By announcing the training, Ryder added, according to DOD News’ Joseph Clark, “the U.S. 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,” Clark wrote.

Depending on how skilled the Ukrainian pilots are when they arrive in Arizona, the training program could take several months, Ryder indicated.

“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 U.S. side, that training typically lasts about eight months.”

The training will include “a series of courses ranging from basic flight training to instruction on fighter fundamentals, weapons employment, combat maneuvering and tactical intercepts among other concepts,” according to the DOD.

More experienced pilots could complete the F-16 training in roughly five months, Ryder said.

Also receiving training are the Ukrainian ground support personnel.

Tasked with keeping the jets combat-ready, Ryder noted that the ground crews require significant logistics and maintenance training.

But before the Ukrainian pilots get to go wheels up in an F-16, they must first learn English.

“Prior to flight training, the pilots will receive language training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas beginning in September,” Clark reports. “The language training will ensure that all pilots have sufficient language skills to be able to fully comprehend the ‘complexities and specialized English required to fly the aircraft,’ Ryder said.”

“The Ukrainian people have inspired the world with their courage and resolve to defend their right to live in a sovereign, democratic and free country,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Thursday in a statement marking Ukraine’s 32nd anniversary of its independence.

“Today, as Ukraine commemorates another year of independence, the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to ensure that it can celebrate many more,” Austin continued. “We will support Ukraine for as long as it takes in its fight for its security and freedom.”

Melissa Fine


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