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12 Ukrainian pilots will be ready to fly F-16s in combat in July – NYT

Monday, 11 March 2024, 10:19
12 Ukrainian pilots will be ready to fly F-16s in combat in July – NYT
F-16. Stock photo: Getty Images

The New York Times reported that twelve Ukrainian pilots will be ready to fly F-16 fighter jets in combat this summer, but by the time they come back home from training, Ukraine will have received only six aircraft.  

Source: NYT

Quote from the NYT: "Twelve pilots so far — fewer than a full squadron — are expected to be ready to fly F-16s in combat by this summer after 10 months of training in Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States.


But by the time the pilots return to Ukraine, as few as six F-16s will have been delivered out of about 45 of the fighter jets that European allies have promised."

Details: The New York Times noted that Ukrainian pilots were currently waiting for fighter jets and pilot instructors at a new training centre at the Fătesti airbase in southern Romania, which is to play a crucial role in training Ukrainians. But it is unclear when Ukrainian pilots will begin training at the centre.

In addition, several officials said that there remained a lot of uncertainty about when each country will send its planes, how many Ukraine will receive, how quickly the pilots can be trained and the number of people who can properly maintain the fighters.

The NYT emphasised that the training of Ukrainian pilots on modern Western aircraft is lightning fast, compressing years of training into a few months. Nevertheless, the process has been slower than Ukraine and its allies had hoped, as pilots have had to learn English and Western military practices to use the F-16s effectively.

The NYT reiterated that training for Ukrainian pilots began last August at an airbase in southern Denmark, but their language skills and knowledge of Western flight technology slowed down the process. According to Danish officials, the Ukrainian pilots were ready to fly only in January 2024.

The NYT also stated that Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium have pledged to send about 45 aircraft to Ukraine, enough for three small squadrons. Denmark will send the first six planes in late spring, with 13 more to arrive by the end of the year and in 2025.

Other countries have not yet set a delivery date for their F-16s. The Dutch Ministry of Defence, which has promised to deliver 24 fighter jets, has said it will hold them until Ukraine is ready to accept them.

There is also a need for fighter jet maintenance personnel. Currently, about 50 Ukrainian technicians are being trained in Denmark to maintain and repair the aircraft, as well as to work with the weapon systems. The NYT writes that the F-16s are so complex that each one typically requires eight to 14 people to maintain.

Officials have said that Western defence contractors will have to escort the planes to Ukraine and stay with them until there are enough Ukrainian crews to properly maintain them, a process that could take years.

In addition, the need to repair outdated and war-damaged military runways in Ukraine may also delay the F-16's entry into the war.

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