10:38 11 Mar 2024

NYT: 12 Ukrainian pilots may be fully trained on F-16s by summer, but few will have a jet of their own

Photo: RAF

Twelve Ukrainian pilots will be ready for combat flights on F-16 fighter jets by this summer. However, there won't be enough planes for all of them, Rubryka reports, citing The New York Times.

The F-16 fighters are ready, and the instructor pilots are waiting at a new training center in Romania, created to train Ukrainian pilots in flying combat aircraft F-16.

"But there's a catch: The Ukrainian pilots have yet to arrive, despite declarations last summer that the center would play a crucial role in getting them into the air to defend their country from increasingly deadly Russian strikes," the article reads.

The NYT adds that it's still unclear when Ukrainian pilots will begin training at the center located at the Fetești airbase in southeastern Romania, which NATO allies also use for fighter jet training.

"That is not to say that Ukraine's pilots are not being prepared. Twelve pilots so far — fewer than a full squadron — are expected to be ready to fly F-16s in combat by this summer after ten months of training in Denmark, Britain and the United States," the article says.

However, by the time the pilots return to Ukraine, only six F-16s out of the 45 fighter jets promised by European allies will have been delivered.

Recently, President Volodymyr Zelensky showed footage of Ukrainian pilots training on F-16 fighter jets in Denmark. The video is dated February 2024.

"All Ukrainians are looking forward to the day when the first Ukrainian F-16s will appear in our skies, strengthening the defense of our cities and communities and enhancing the capabilities of our Armed Forces of Ukraine," he said.

What we know about the F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine

The Netherlands and Denmark reached an agreement on August 20 of last year to transfer F-16 jets to Ukraine after Ukrainian pilots finished training.

Ukraine will receive 42 American F-16 fighter jets from the Netherlands and 19 jets from Denmark.

By the end of September, the Air Force had already released a video showing how Ukrainian pilots were adapting to the F-16 in Ukraine. They were mastering the operation of American F-16 fighter jets using a flight simulator.

According to the US Air Force, a "small number" of Ukrainian pilots began training at the 162nd Aviation Unit of the Arizona National Guard in "F-16 fundamentals" at the end of October.

In November, the first F-16s for training Ukrainian pilots, previously sent by the Netherlands, arrived at the training center in Romania.

On February 5, 2024, the Netherlands decided to transfer six more F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine than initially planned. They will add six aircraft from the planned 18 jets.

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