Ukrainian pilots move closer to flying F-16 fighter jets as RAF training ends

Ukranian pilot UK
Ministry of Defence

Ten future Ukranian F-16 fighter jet pilots have completed the first stages of their training with the British Royal Air Force (RAF). 

The pilots have undergone intensive training in the United Kingdom (UK), involving basic flying, ground school and language training. 

As part of their training, the pilots have been taught general aircraft handling, flying using the aircraft’s instruments, low level navigation and advanced formation flying by experienced RAF instructors. 

They also received English language tutoring to assist in their training and to boost interoperability with NATO air forces, where English is the standardized international flight language. 

Ukrainian Pilots Graduation
Ministry of Defence

The training comes following a request from Ukraine to provide its air force with F-16 fighter jets so that the country can defend its skies from Russian forces, in the wake of the invasion back in February 2022. 

While countries such as the Netherlands and Demark are providing Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, the UK was only able to offer training, as it does not operate the aircraft.  

The intensive training carried out by the RAF constitutes the UK’s contribution to the Air Capability Coalition, co-led by the United States (US), Denmark and the Netherlands.  

The Ukrainian pilots will now move to advanced flying training provided by the French Air Force before learning to fly F-16 fighter jets. On September 3, 2023, the authorities of France and Ukraine reported that they had reached a deal to train Ukrainian pilots in France. 

UK Secretary of State for Defense Grant Shapps said: “I would like to congratulate these brave pilots on completing their initial training here in the UK. Thanks to the world-renowned skills of RAF, these pilots have received some of the best training available and are now a step closer to joining the fight against Putin’s illegal invasion.”  

According to the UK, the first F-16s are set to be delivered to Ukraine by summer 2024. 

Ukraine pilots have also been undergoing F-16 training in the US since October 2023, at Morris Air National Guard base in Tucson, Arizona.   

Several Ukrainian pilots are expected to complete their training by May 2024. 

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