F-16s flown by 14 Ukrainian pilots fly over Scandinavian Europe

F-16 jets are now currently piloted by Ukrainian Air Force aviators. This development occurred once the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense validated that six additional pilots, already adept in “dry training,” are now undergoing airborne training sessions with the F-16 jet. 

F-16 joystick feel is interesting, not like MiG-29 - a UKR pilot
YouTube screenshot

Official declarations highlight that the aerial training is conducted in Denmark. In two separate groups, a total of 14 pilots arrived in Denmark— initially eight, followed by another six, who reached merely days ago. Each pilot successfully completed their education under the “UK Basic Training Programme”

The primary emphasis of the UK program lies with “dry training” coupled with English language proficiency sessions. As per reports from the British Ministry of Defense, it’s apparent that an additional 10 Ukrainian pilots remain in the UK, continuing their language instruction. This indicates that in the coming weeks, it won’t be just 14 but rather 24 Ukrainian pilots soaring the skies of Denmark.

What is Ukrainian pilot training?

With the specifics surrounding the British training program for Ukrainian pilots somewhat shrouded in mystery, clarity has finally arrived in the form of a justified press release from the UK Ministry of Defense. 

This revelation informs us that not only does the training encompass mastery of the English language, but it also involves practical application through lessons conducted by seasoned British pilots. Here’s where the Grob Tutor aircraft comes into play. Trainees are guided through standard aircraft handling procedures, instrument flying, and both medium and low-level navigation. Not to mention, they’re taught the challenging art of formation flying. 

Cool POV video of an F-16 pilot flying past an aircraft carrier
Video screenshot

What does this mean for Ukraine? This dual-focus education prepares the country for the impending confrontations with the Russian army and projects into the future of Ukrainian aviation post-conflict. The reasonable presumption is once the battle cloud clears, Kyiv will maintain its gear-up posture with Western weaponry systems, inclusive of fighter jets. 

As anticipation grows towards Ukraine potentially carving out its space as a NATO member, the language skills honed by Ukrainian pilots would substantially smoothen the interoperability between NATO members and the Ukrainian Air Force.

The Balkans will also host Ukrainian pilots

The training of Ukrainian pilots is being undertaken in various locations. The United Kingdom, for instance, offers preliminary foundational training. Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United States are the primary players in the ongoing training process. 

32 Romanian F-16s will receive TTP 'Friend and Foe' integration
Photo credit: RNAF

Besides Denmark, plans are underway for Ukrainian pilots to commandeer F-16 aircraft over Dutch airspace. However, there is another closely situated country ready to facilitate aerial training flights with the Ukrainian crew. This country is none other than Romania. 

According to a press release by the Romanian government, Ukraine and Romania penned an agreement in October. This agreement outlined that the inaugural group of pilots trained at the newly established F-16 training facility in Romania will include Ukrainian pilots. The training center began operations in early November and anticipates initiating the training for Ukrainian pilots in the early part of next year.

‘Moonfish’

A Ukrainian pilot, affectionately referred to as “Moonfish,” sat down with Defense Express, a local Ukrainian website, to discuss his initial experiences flying the F-16. 

In comparing the F-16 to the MiG-29 fighters, Moonfish was quick to point out the importance of the onboard computer interface equipment and the impressive multi-function displays on the F-16. 

When it comes to comfort, Moonfish is of the view that the F-16 is well-crafted, with much thought put into the design. He acknowledged that while the cockpit can feel somewhat cramped, overall, the ergonomics have been addressed with efficiency in mind.

With regards to the challenge of transitioning MiG-29 pilots to the F-16, Moonfish said that Ukrainian pilots have undergone preliminary training using “available simulators.” It appears these may be home-made versions, as per previous statements from Ukraine’s armed forces.

Russian TG channels

When the “F-16 coalition” was initially formed, it was understood that we would have to wait for several months before the first Western warplanes took to Ukrainian skies to repel Russian assaults. Yet, some Russian bloggers put forward speedy claims of spotting F-16s at an Odessa airport, asserting they were destroyed while parked on the runways. 

Determining the validity of such a claim can be tricky. Drawing from Western sources, Radio Free Europe reports that no Western F-16s are currently stationed in Ukraine. Further, the arrival of the initial batch of F-16s is anticipated within days, possibly following the advent of the new year, as per some experts. 

Contrarily, the Russian think tank Rybar presents a different narrative. Citing intelligence predominantly sourced from Russia, Rybar suggests that Ukraine has already received at least two F-16 fighter jets transported via two trucks from Poland. However, these assertions lack public substantiation, with both Ukraine and Poland issuing denials.

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