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Ukrainian pilots are training on F-16s with US instructors, Kyiv says | CNN


Ukrainian pilots have started joint training on F-16 fighter jets with US instructors in Ukraine, according to Kyiv.

“The F-16 aircraft was in Ukraine. It landed at our airfields, we conducted joint training with F-16 pilots … A day ago two of my pilots were tested by US instructors,” Ukrainian Air Force Commander Oleksandr Oleshchuk told Ukrainian state TV on Saturday.

Oleshchuk added that while the total training period was 32 months, “it was decided that for this class of pilots, they will be able to master the F-16 aircraft in four months.”

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov also said training on the jets had begun, saying in a separate on-camera interview on Saturday that Ukrainian engineers and technicians were training alongside the pilots.

Reznikov said he would not disclose how long the training would last, but noted that “a minimal term of training is six months.”

He said the instructors would announce the completion of training when they were satisfied the pilots, engineers and technicians had mastered their new skills.

An F-16 fighter jet performs at an air show in Houston, the United States, on Oct. 10, 2020.

Trainees will also get English-language training in technical terminology, because “the basic level of English language is not enough,” he said.

Reznikov said it was important to determine what kind of weapons the aircraft would be carrying.

“After all, without radars, the plane cannot see, and without machine guns, missiles and shells, it is not a weapon, but only a carrier,” he added.

The F-16 training program is being supported by a coalition of 11 NATO countries and requires official US approval because the jets are American technology.

On Friday a US official said the US had committed to approving the transfer of F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine as soon as training is complete.

Denmark and the Netherlands have taken the lead in preparing a program to train Ukrainian pilots on the American jet, but the US is still working with other countries to see who may provide F-16s to the Ukrainian Air Force.

On Friday, the US approved the transfer of F-16 instructional materials from Denmark to Ukraine, according to the US official and an administration official.

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NATO Chief: Ukraine can join when conditions are met

The transfer will allow the Danish defense ministry to move forward with “their effort to stand up pilot and maintenance training programs,” the administration official said. The approval includes training modules, documentation and classroom training materials, the official said, which contains information about sensitive US technology.

The approval of the third-party transfer request from Denmark was one of the critical steps before Ukrainian fighter pilots could begin training to fly the fourth-generation jets which Kyiv has requested for months. Denmark said Ukrainian pilots would begin training on F-16 jets later this month, part of a coalition of 11 countries that will be involved in the training program.

Even so, Ukraine said Wednesday that it didn’t expect to receive F-16s until sometime next year.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Harpsund, Sweden.

Ukrainian fighters have also been training in Sweden on the Archer artillery system, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nightly address on Saturday.

“Archer systems for our gunners… Our boys are already studying in Sweden,” Zelensky said. “The powerful system, the necessary system. We are working to have more of them in Ukraine.”

Zelensky has said that Ukrainian soldiers have been waiting on Archer systems to arrive since Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson visited Kyiv in February.

“Our soldiers are especially looking forward to the recently approved aid package – the brilliant Swedish Archers, one of the best artillery systems in the world,” Zelensky said during a press conference back in February.

Zelensky also said that since his visit to Sweden there had been accelerating supply and production of Swedish armored Combat Vehicle 90 in Ukraine. He spoke too of his hopes that Sweden’s Gripen jet fighters might soon “appear in our sky.”

“Everything powerful that serves us now, we must localize and produce,” he added, also nothing that Ukraine had tried “very hard to increase the capabilities of military aviation – one of the hardest tasks.”

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