TechUkrainian pilots train on US F-16s - first jets arrive this summer

Ukrainian pilots train on US F‑16s - first jets arrive this summer

The F-16 cockpit provides the pilot with excellent visibility - illustrative picture.
The F-16 cockpit provides the pilot with excellent visibility - illustrative picture.
Images source: © Public domain | SSG CAYCEE R. COOK
12:44 PM EST, February 23, 2024

"These Ukrainian F-16s will play a pivotal part in defending our cities and communities, and in bolstering the capacities of Ukraine's Armed Forces. I wish to express my gratitude to the F-16 coalition for their role in hastening this process, while our pilots and staff persist in their rigorous training," Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

F-16s Earmarked for Ukraine

Despite adverse weather conditions, scant time, and the pressing need to get back to the battle, Ukrainian pilots and technicians are intensively training in the operation of the F-16 at the Danish Skrydstrup base. "Our combat experience holds immense value, but the F-16 training program is demanding. Our primary impetus, however, is not our past experience, but our resolve to return and continue the fight," commented a Ukrainian pilot, who gave his name as "Moonfish" in the video released by the president.

The pilot speaks highly of the F-16's technical capabilities, saying, "I don’t wish to disparage our MiGs, but the F-16 is markedly more maneuverable. The fighter seems to inspire a more assertive flight style". This is a significant leap for Ukraine, which has not previously had access to such advanced systems as the F-16, thus posing a challenge, especially for the Ukrainian technicians responsible for the aircraft's smooth operation.

"At first, upon seeing the system, it seemed impossible to bring to Ukraine. But now, I am confident that the F-16s will streamline our work and conserve time. We must press forward. If we want to develop as a country and as an air force, we need to learn from other nations that have already traversed this path," commented a Ukrainian technician named Ihor in the President's video release.

The addition of F-16s into Ukraine's arsenal is pivotal for the nation's survival amid warfare, most notably now as Russia intensifies its advances along the entire front line. Ukrainian pilots will be capable of warding off enemy aircraft from the country's borders and reduce the possibility of airborne guided bomb usage, which Russia employs daily against civilians and soldiers. Ukraine is appreciative of the entire coalition for their assistance in safeguarding its skies, as emphasized in the recording.

On Thursday, Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen confirmed that the first F-16 planes designated for Ukraine will be donated this summer. This is later than the initially announced date of early 2024 by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in August 2023. The deferment is primarily due to issues such as F-35 delivery delays from the USA, which are to replace Denmark's fleet of F-16s.

"Though Ukraine and Denmark are both European countries, considerable cultural differences exist between us. Through this endeavor (the transfer of F-16s), both sides can exchange wisdom and establish a robust base for friendly relations. We stand together in this challenging time," stated General Jan Dam, commander of the Royal Danish Air Force, during the recording.

In July 2023, Ukraine and several partner countries formed what's known as the F-16 coalition, led by the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, Greece, Luxembourg, Canada, Poland, France, Romania, Belgium, Portugal, and Sweden. Shortly thereafter, in early February, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren disclosed on platform X that the Netherlands would provide Ukraine with a total of 24 F-16 fighter jets.

At the North Atlantic Alliance summit in Vilnius in July 2023, 11 NATO member countries formed a coalition to train Ukrainian pilots and mechanics in the use and operation of F-16s. In August of the same year, the USA reassured Denmark and the Netherlands that it would expedite the approval process for third-party transfers of F-16s to Ukraine so that Kyiv would receive the fighter planes as soon as the pilots completed their training.

Notably, the F-16s are fighter planes designed and manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Each plane is approximately 49.3 feet long, has a wingspan of around 31 feet, and can reach speeds up to Mach 2, or nearly 1528 mph. The main advantage of these aircraft is their remarkable versatility in weaponry. Lockheed Martin underscores on its website that its 36 years experience in weapons integration with F-16s allows the jet fighter to carry around 180 different types of weapons.

The primary armament of the F-16 consists of the M61A 20 mm cannon. Additionally, they can carry guided air-to-ground missiles (AGM-65G2 Maverick), bombs (Mk82 or Mk84), or radar-guided medium-range air-to-air missiles (AIM-120C-5).

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