​Training of Ukrainian Pilots on F-16 Takes Longer Than Expected, the Reason is Simple

Illustrative photo: F-16 operating at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona / Photo credits: Dominic Tyler, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Illustrative photo: F-16 operating at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona / Photo credits: Dominic Tyler, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

As the war in Ukraine unfolds, the skill requirements from the pilots change and develop but ultimately by September 2024 they will return home better prepared than initially planned

New details about the training Ukrainian aircraft pilots receive in the United States come to light in the report by Air & Space Forces Magazine. The Ukrainian servicemen learn operating the F-16 multirole fighter jets in the U.S., and worth noting, the same kind of training is underway in other countries of Ukraine's "aircraft coalition," too.

Captain Erin Hannigan of the Arizona National Guard told the media that eight pilots are in training as of today, another four are expected to finish the course by the end of fiscal year 2024 in the U.S., that is, by September 30, totaling 12 pilots.

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F-16 at the162 WG, Arizona Air National Guard
Illustrative photo credit: 162 WG, Arizona Air National Guard

"It is very much a standardized training program that multiple countries are participating in to include the United States with training here in the United States, and English language training that precedes the tactical training," a senior defense official said, as quoted by the magazine.

Capt. Hannigan notes that the training is expected to be completed between May and August — apparently, this timeframe applies to the first group of pilots because the second cohort of four only arrived in late January this year. Important to note, the program's current training schedule is longer than initially estimated. This is partially due to the necessity to prepare a fully capable pilot.

"We’re thinking more long term, so some of the requirements on them has shifted, and so that has necessitated a little bit longer [timeframe]. They’re all going through right now, and everything’s good on that point," says Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh. Overall, the training of Ukrainian personnel "is going great" at the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard, he notes, with solo flights on F-16s performed every day.

Besides the pilots, there are also dozens of Ukrainian technicians learning the handling of F-16 fighters. As of today, they are learning aviation English in San Antonio, Texas, the main part of the maintenance course is yet to be decided.

As for the concerns around the financing of the program, arising due to the ongoing disputes in the Congress on Ukraine aid, Erin Hannigan said the money for tuition had been allocated beforehand. At the same time, there is room for expanding the program, should the Biden administration decide to commit to it.

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