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Ukrainian pilots are about to start training on F-16 fighter jets

Training of Ukrainian pilots will be the first step towards receiving F-16s, modern US-made aircraft that Ukraine has been long requesting. The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine hopes to receive the first F-16s in the autumn of 2023.

A Belgian F-16 jet fighter takes part in the NATO military exercises “Steadfast Noon” at the Kleine-Brogel Air Base in Belgium. October 18, 2022.
Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP / Getty Images

“The training of the Ukrainian pilots has already started, this is the first thing to do, and I hope that soon we could provide Ukraine with this kind of arms (F-16 – ed.),” stated the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on May 22.He also added that the Armed Forces of Ukraine need fighter jets and welcomed the decision of the G7. “That’s a good idea. That’s a good saying coming out of the G7. That finally, they decided to prepare the ground in order to provide Ukraine with jet fighters they need,” emphasized the diplomat.

Update: On May 23, Yurii Ihnat, Spokesman for the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, specified that the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16s hasn’t started yet. “The process of preparing people to start this training is still ongoing. There are advanced groups that have traveled to countries that can provide us with training facilities. The specifics of how this process will take place are being studied. There are no pilots themselves yet (in these countries – ed.)”.

Russia’s invasion was one of the main topics for discussion at the G7 summit in Japan. In particular, several member states announced new sanctions against Russia. Another important topic of discussion was the formation of a coalition to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, which Kyiv has been requesting for quite some time.

According to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden informed his G7 counterparts that the United States will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter aircraft, including F-16s.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the decision. “The UK will work together with the USA and the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark to get Ukraine the combat air capability it needs. We stand united,” he wrote on Twitter. Furthermore, Rishi Sunak added that the United Kingdom would begin training Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16 fighter jets “this summer” to “support Ukraine’s air force with what it needs for the future”.

At the same time, the White House stated a condition for Ukraine to receive F-16 fighter jets. “All of the capabilities that the United States has proven to Ukraine come with the basic proposition that the United States is not enabling or supporting attacks on Russian territory. That will go for the support for the provision of F-16s by any party as well,” stated National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. He also added that the training will unfold in the coming months, and the USA will work with their allies to determine when planes will be delivered, who will be delivering them, and how many.

While the exact timing and quantity of F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine will receive have not been announced yet, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine hopes the F-16s will arrive in Ukraine this autumn.

“If we all pull our weight … and decisions are made quickly, I would estimate that by the end of September, early October, we could see the first F-16s flying in Ukrainian airspace,” stated Yurii Sak, Advisor to the Minister of Defence of Ukraine. He added that Ukraine wants between 40 and 50 F-16s from its allies, forming three or four squadrons to defend its skies from Russian bombardments.