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26 Dec, 2023 15:20

First Ukrainian pilots complete F-16 training – UK

The airmen moved to Denmark after doing the initial course in the UK, according to the British MoD
First Ukrainian pilots complete F-16 training – UK

Six experienced Ukrainian fighter jet pilots have completed their F-16 training course in the UK, the British Defense Ministry has said.

The first group of Kiev’s airmen began receiving flying and English language lessons from the Royal Air Force (RAF) in August, as part of London’s contribution to the international coalition aimed at providing Ukraine with fourth generation US-made aircraft, the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Those pilots are already in Denmark, where they’ll continue to learn to operate the F-16s, it added.

During their stay in Britain, Ukrainian forces only took to the skies in a Grob Tutor aircraft, as the RAF has no F-16s in service, the statement read. The British instructors worked with the pilots on general handling procedures, navigation, instrument and formation flying in line with NATO standards, it noted.

Ten more Ukrainian aviators will continue their training in the UK, along with dozens of technicians from the country, the ministry said.

UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said that he was “proud of the support the Royal Air Force is providing to the next generation of Ukraine’s combat air pilots and ground crew, who will be the first line of defense in protecting Ukraine’s skies.” The use of the F-16s by Kiev, “combined with training from the world-leading RAF … is a significant step forward from Ukraine’s current Soviet-era capabilities,” he claimed.

The statement also cited Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, who described the training provided by Britain as “a rapid and effective programme to equip Ukrainian pilots with the skills they need in the war against Russia.”

Last week, the Netherlands, which is one of the key members of the coalition, announced that it was about to start preparing the first delivery of F-16s fighter jets to Ukraine.

According to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the “initial” shipment would include 18 aircrafts.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed in August that the Netherlands and Belgium together pledged to provide 42 jets to his country, although a joint statement by the two EU nations didn’t mention any specific numbers.

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the F-16s would “burn” once they were delivered to Ukraine, just like the Leopard-2 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and other Western-made weapons that had been previously supplied to Kiev.