F-16 training: Ukrainian pilots will not be operational before 2024

The first Ukrainian pilots to undergo F-16 fighter training will not be operational before the summer of 2024.

This reported The Kyiv Independent citing the Washington Post, which refers to Ukrainian government and military officials. Two unnamed Ukrainian officials indicate that only six pilots, or roughly half the squadron, will complete the first round of training. Two other pilots have been identified as reserve candidates, according to the Post. Although the pilots are fluent in English, they must first complete a four-month English course in the United Kingdom to learn the terminology needed to fly the jets. This means that actual combat training for the pilots is not expected to begin until January 2024. Another group of pilots, which is about the same size ,would be ready toward the end of next year.

Delay highlights split between West and Ukraine

There are also to be 20 pilots with minimal English skills, and they are to begin language training in England this month. According to the Washington Post, the delays highlight the split between the West and Kyiv. The West views the F-16s mainly as a tool for Ukraine’s long-term security. Kyiv hopes to use the advanced jets against Russian forces as soon as possible. Last month, the U.S. said it allows European countries to train Ukrainians on F-16 fighter jets – a potential boon to Ukraine’s efforts to counter Russia’s air superiority.

Image: president.gov.ua, Участь Президента України у засіданні РНБО 19, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons (image size modified)

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