The U.S. Defense Department will begin training Ukrainians to fly and maintain F-16 fighter jets in the coming months. The training is expected to begin in October at the Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, and will be facilitated by the Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing. The U.S.-led training is “in support of the international effort to develop and strengthen Ukraine’s long-term defenses. The Netherlands and Denmark have announced their intentions to make F-16 aircraft from their fleets available to Ukraine. In total, up to 61 Dutch and Danish F-16s could eventually be transferred to Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled the United States’ willingness to approve the third-party transfer of the U.S.-made F-16s to Ukraine in a letter to his European counterparts last week.
“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. 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. Ukraine will ultimately determine the number of pilots that will require the training. Part of this training will be assessing the individual pilots’ skill level, which will determine help to determine how long that training will last,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III highlighted that commitment earlier in a statement marking Ukraine’s 32nd anniversary of its independence. “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. Today, as Ukraine commemorates another year of independence, the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to ensure that it can celebrate many more. We will support Ukraine for as long as it takes in its fight for its security and freedom,” he said.
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. That training includes a series of courses ranging from basic flight training to instruction on fighter fundamentals, weapons employment, combat maneuvering and tactical intercepts among other concepts. The training for more experienced pilots could be completed in about five months. The F-16s require significant logistics and maintenance training for ground support personnel that ensures the aircrafts remain combat capable. Prior to flight training, the pilots will receive language training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas beginning in September.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.” The announcement further underscores the United States’ long-term solidarity with Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression.