Preparation Of First Ukrainian Pilots Destined To The F-16 Continues

Ukrainian F-16
Ukrainian pilot trained in UK. (Image credit: RAF/Crown Copyright)

The first 10 Ukrainian pilots have completed Elementary Flying Training with the RAF.

The first Ukrainian Air Force pilots trained by Royal Air Force instructors have graduated from flight school, the RAF said in a public statement.

“The 10 pilots received basic flying, ground school and language training in the UK and will one day form the first line of defence in protecting Ukraine’s skies from Putin’s forces.”

“This effort is a key UK contribution to the Air Capability Coalition, co-led by the United States, Denmark and the Netherlands, which is helping build an air force consisting of modern fighter jets to form the cornerstone of Ukraine’s armed forces. The capability coalitions were established last year to provide a long-term commitment to supporting Ukraine’s armed forces, with the UK co-leading the maritime and drone coalitions.”

“As part of their training, the pilots were taught general aircraft handling, flying by the aircraft’s instruments, low level navigation and advanced formation flying by experienced RAF instructors. They also received English language training to assist in their training and to boost interoperability with NATO air forces – with English the standardised international flight language.”

“Having worked closely with the French Air Force to align our training programmes, the pilots will now continue to France to conduct advanced flight training before they progress to training on the F-16 aircraft itself.”

This group of pilot should belong to the cadre of junior students from the 2023 class, with very few hours under their belt. They will now continue with an advanced flying training with the French Air Force Alpha Jets. This means it will take much time before they will be able to fly and fight in a “Viper”.

Besides the more junior ones being trained in the UK, Ukrainian pilots with prior combat experience are already being trained on the F-16 in the U.S., in Denmark and in Romania, where the European F-16 Training Centre (EFTC) at Baza 86 Aeriana Fetesti was established to train Romanian and Ukrainian pilots, as well as other regional F-16 operators with more than a dozen RNLAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) F-16s, which remain property of the Dutch government, available for this purpose.

Norway has decided to follow Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands and provided F-16s to Ukraine to stand up a comprehensive F-16 training solution for Ukrainian pilots: two ex-RONAF F-16BMs were deployed to Skrydstrup along with 10 pilots.

The first six Ukrainian F-16 pilots began training at Skrydstrup air base along with 65 personnel in August 2023. Graduation of this cadre of more experienced pilot was scheduled in early 2024, after at least six months of training, and graduation not earlier than February 2024. These pilots will have only a limited combat readiness.

On August 18, 2024 Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces-Africa, warned that the F-16s won’t be a “silver bullet” and it will take years to build proficiency for pilots and maintainers. “What the F-16 will give them is, it’s going to be more interoperable with the current weapons that we’re giving them now,” said Gen. Hecker. “Right now, weapons that we’re giving them have to be adapted to go on the MiG-29 or go on the Su-27, or something like that.”

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.