The US Air Force has praised Ukrainian pilots' ability to master Western F-16 fighter jets and believes that for them, the training programme could be completed in four months.
Source: an internal US Air Force document obtained by the Yahoo News portal, European Pravda reports.
Details: The document, which the US shared with its NATO allies who fly F-16s, contains a detailed assessment of two Ukrainian pilots who were tested in late February and early March at an air base in Arizona.
One of the Ukrainian pilots had experience flying the MiG-29, the other the Su-27. Neither had any previous experience with the F-16 and they were tested in a simulator, where they had nine sessions of 11½ hours each. They were evaluated by four experienced US Air Force instructors, each with thousands of flight hours in F-16s.
According to the assessment, the Ukrainian pilots were able to carry out a number of "relatively technical" manoeuvres in their simulated environments, including landing the aircraft after a flameout – when the engine stops due to the flame in its combustion chamber going out. Both pilots were also able to "execute mock attacks based on parameters communicated while they were flying the sim".
The US instructors believe that the main problem identified during training was the Ukrainian pilots not being used to the avionics (i.e. the electronic systems) of the F-16, which displays information in English. They also pointed to the general language barrier, although they noted that both pilots significantly improved their English in the course of two weeks.
Despite this, the US Air Force assessment concludes that "given the current skill set demonstrated by the Ukrainian Air Force pilot ... four months is a realistic training timeline."
Background: The New York Times reported earlier that the US is apparently not allowing Ukrainian pilots to start training on F-16 fighter jets in Europe, even though several countries are prepared to provide such training.
In addition, the US has repeatedly stated publicly that they do not plan to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.