Ukrainian Air Force releases footage of pilots training to fly F-16 fighters

Two US F-16 jets, left, fly in formation with two Ukraine SU-27 jets over Mirgorod Air Base, Ukraine, July 22, 2011. Credit: United States Air Force

The Ukrainian Air Force has released footage of its pilots getting to grips with the US F-16 fighter jet using a flight simulator. 

These virtual reality sessions allow pilots to familiarize themselves with the F-16 cockpit, execute joint missions, and even engage in simulated combat scenarios over Ukrainian territory, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement released alongside the video on September 27, 2023. 

The simulators, equipped with real maps of Ukraine, including occupied territories, provide a realistic training environment. 

“Of course, our goal is to have fully fledged F-16 aircraft training facilities on the territory of Ukraine, training aircraft (Polish Iskras (Sparks)) and flight training centers. But it all starts with small things,” read the statement, which was shared on Facebook and Telegram.  

While some pilots are undergoing hands-on F-16 training abroad, those in Ukraine are leveraging technology to get a head start “when there is a bit of free time,” the statement added. 

Several Western countries have committed to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets as part of an aviation coalition. 

Denmark announced it had started training eight Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets in August 2023.  

The US also announced that it will commence training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets in October 2023, following an English-language course as jet manuals are all in English. 

US Department of Defense Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder highlighted that the training provided by the US would complement the ongoing F-16 pilot and maintenance training in Europe. 

Other European countries such as the Netherlands and Norway have expressed their readiness to supply Ukraine with F-16s.  

In August 2023, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine aims to acquire between 50-60 F-16 jets, though it is estimated that the country requires 160 to effectively defend its airspace. 

The first batch of Ukrainian pilots training in the US are expected to complete their courses by the end of 2023. However, combat readiness could take a bit longer, with projections indicating operational capability by the winter of 2023-2024. 

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