The Pentagon said Thursday that the United States will begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly US-made F-16 fighter jets, beginning in October at an Air National Guard base.
The training is part of a US and European effort to bring advanced fighter jets to Ukraine to defend itself against invading Russian forces.
US military officials emphasize that years of training are required to be able to deploy an F-16 squadron, limiting the aircraft’s impact on Ukraine’s defense in the near future.
It’s about long-term support to Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters in Washington. It is not about the counter-attack that they are doing now.
The training will take place at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona. Pilots will first undergo English instruction at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, to bring their fluency up to the level needed to operate the aircraft starting next month, Ryder said.
Ukraine has long pressed US fighter jets to help defend its cities and forces from Russian artillery and aviation. Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway announced in recent days that they would supply aircraft to Ukraine.
Ryder said the US has decided to include European allies in training to avoid obstacles in getting Ukrainian pilots up to speed.
The US training, he said, would include several Ukrainian fighter pilots and dozens of people maintaining the jets.
For experienced pilots, training can last about five months, Ryder said. He designed the curriculum to cover the basics. In addition to flying the advanced craft, they include formation flying, operating weapons, air combat and suppressing air defense systems, in addition to centrifuge training on the ground to help pilots withstand the G-forces of the F-16 cockpit.
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