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How Long It May Take For Ukraine’s Pilots to Learn to Operate the F-16, And What Missiles Will Be Given to Them

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Possible F-16 in the livery of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine / Illustrative image from open sources
Possible F-16 in the livery of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine / Illustrative image from open sources

Depending on the gradation of the training program, the transition of Ukraine’s aviation to Western fighter jets may take more than just a few months

The Drive portal tried to estimate how long the process of training Ukraine’s pilots for the F-16 could take in the event that the political decision to transfer such aircraft is still made. It was not possible to find a clear answer, since everything depends on the nature of the program, according to it the defenders of Ukraine’s sky will master the F-16.

How Long It May Take For Ukraine’s Pilots to Learn to Operate the F-16, And What Missiles Will Be Given to Them, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The F-16 in Myrhorod, 2011 / Illustrative photo from open sources

The full course of study can last up to 9 months. The first 4 weeks is academic training, when pilots theoretically study the systems of the F-16 aircraft and the algorithm of actions in case of emergency. At the next stage, the cadets have to go through 8 sessions on the simulator, when they practice "instrument flight" and practical actions in emergency situations. The cadet must then complete four flights in the two-seat F-16D with an instructor before progressing to solo flights in the fighter.

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Next, another 60 flights should take place, when they practice air-to-air missiles strikes as well as the weapons to work on ground targets, and flights at night. And only after such a long training course the pilot considered to be ready to use the F-16.

How Long It May Take For Ukraine’s Pilots to Learn to Operate the F-16, And What Missiles Will Be Given to Them, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The F-16 in Myrhorod, 2011 / Illustrative photo from open sources

In theory, an option with the FTU can be used to train Ukraine’s pilots: the course for experienced pilots who already have considerable experience of flying on Western-made aircraft.

The FTU course is 69 days long, including 210 academic hours of theoretical training, up to 20 simulator training, 6 flights to master F-16 piloting skills, 10 to 15 flights to use air-to-air missiles and 6 to 9 flights to use strike weapons against ground targets.

"Squeezing" the FTU course into less than 69 days will not be possible, since it’s considered that pilots train without days off, at the same time the pilot already must have experience piloting Western fighters. Unfortunately, Ukrainian pilots do not yet fit the last criterion.

How Long It May Take For Ukraine’s Pilots to Learn to Operate the F-16, And What Missiles Will Be Given to Them, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The F-16 fighter jet / Illustrative photo from open sources

One of the pilots of the US Air Force stated in his comments to The Drive that in theory the infrastructure for the FTU course would allow to accept a minimum of 12 of Ukraine’s pilots simultaneously, for at least 3 months of training. And then, they say, even such an intensive course of training will still not be enough to reveal the full potential of the F-16.

But, as further stated, the actual duration of the F-16 pilot training course will be affected by at least two factors. The first is what concept of use of these fighters will be offered to Ukraine by the US partners. In the USA itself, they still believe that due to the dense saturation of air defense means on both front lines, not only russians, but also Ukraine is also limited in the possibilities of using aviation.

How Long It May Take For Ukraine’s Pilots to Learn to Operate the F-16, And What Missiles Will Be Given to Them
The F-16 fighter jet / Illustrative photo from open sources

The second factor is what kind of weapons Ukraine will be supplied with. The Drive warns that the US is usually wary of giving the AIM-120 AMRAAM air missile specifically to the F-16 (which Ukraine still uses with the NASAMS air defense system). And the list of strike weapons for the F-16 may generally be limited to the JDAM aerial bombs, while the Soviet MiG-29 and Su-27 will continue using the AGM-88 HARM.

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