First Ukrainian Pilots Expected to Finish U.S. F-16 Training By Summer

The news comes as a potential timeline begins to emerge for when Ukraine might also receive its first fighter jets.

Two F-16s assigned to the 162nd Wing, Arizona Air National Guard based at Morris Air National Guard Base, Arizona. [Courtesy: DOD]

A small group of Ukrainian fighter pilots are expected to complete their F-16 training in Arizona by the start of summer, according to a new report.

The news comes as a timeline begins to emerge for when Ukraine might also receive the first fighter jets sought by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since Russia’s invasion in 2022.

In October, a small number of Ukrainian fighter pilots began training in F-16 fundamentals with the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard (ANG) at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson. Called the “face of the USAF to the world,” the ANG wing has trained pilots from 25 countries to fly the F-16.

At least a dozen Ukrainian pilots are  training in Arizona, CNN reported. The first four pilots are expected to finish by May, followed by a second group of four pilots who began training in January. The third group of four pilots is in English-language training, and all are expected to complete training by August, ANG spokesperson Captain Erin Hannigan told CNN.

“The training is going great,” Air National Guard Director Lieutenant General Michael Loh told Air & Space Forces magazine last week. “They’re flying F-16s solo every day.”

Last month, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed the training remained on schedule and  was expected to range from five to eight months, depending on individual pilots' skill level.

Ukrainian F-16 pilots coming on line this summer can expect to have fighter jets to fly when they return home, a Lithuanian official told Foreign Policy magazine last week. “I think that in June we will see them in Ukraine,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas told the magazine, citing a timeline that he said was confirmed during the Munich Security Conference

During a recent television appearance, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said he could not confirm the June timeline, the Kyiv Independent online newspaper reported.

"I can only confirm that the action plan is indeed being carried out,” Ihnat said. “Our partners are ready to hand over the planes to Ukraine."

Ihnat said the aircraft were needed "as soon as possible" and that the country had a goal of operating them from Ukrainian runways. Shoring up infrastructure in order to protect the aircraft also remains a concern.

"Ideally, we would hide everything underground, as Iran does," the Kyiv Independent reported. "[Or] build reinforced concrete storage facilities that would withstand ballistic missiles."

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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