The US Air Force confirmed that Ukrainian pilots have begun flight training on F-16 fighter jets at the air base in Arizona.
This is stated in a statement by a US Air Force spokesman, as quoted by the Air & Space Forces Magazine.
The US Air Force spokesperson said that a “small number” of Ukrainian pilots began training in F-16 operations earlier this week at the 162nd Air National Guard unit of the Arizona Air Force.
“The curriculum will address the basic knowledge and skills of each pilot and is expected to last several months,” the US Air Force spokesman added.
Ukrainian pilots have begun training on F-16s at the air base in Arizona
Before that, a small group of Ukrainian pilots who arrived in the US in September underwent language training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
In Arizona, the Ukrainians are expected to first learn the basics of F-16 operation in the classroom and on simulators and then move on to flying real aircraft. However, the course may be accelerated due to the need for Ukrainians to return to participate in hostilities at home.
Earlier, the US had predicted that the first Ukrainian pilots to train on the F-16 could complete the programme in three months, but they would be able to perform combat missions later.
When will Ukraine receive F-16 fighter jets?
In October, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin announced the creation of several “coalitions of capabilities” for Kyiv, including training the Ukrainian Air Force, which we, Denmark and the Netherlands will lead.
Austin says the first F-16s may appear in Ukraine by spring 2024.
In August, the Netherlands and Denmark confirmed they would provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets in a long-awaited statement expected to boost Ukraine’s challenging counteroffensive against Russian invaders. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine would get 42 jets.
The jet coalition includes the Netherlands, Romania, Denmark, United Kingdom, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, and Ukraine.
Ukraine will receive F16s when its pilots will complete the training. According to Ukrainian officials’ statements, the F16 training has already started. Training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters may take 6 months, but the exact time frame is still to be confirmed.
The combat capability of F-16 aircraft depends on the weapons carried. The F-16 is a good aircraft platform to deploy various weapons, including Western long-range high-precision missiles that NATO allies have already provided Ukraine, such as “Scalp” and “Storm Shadow”.
So, the Ukrainian Air Force might be able to defend its skies with F-16s in the coming winter. And at this period, according to British intelligence, Russian troops plan to bombard Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as they did in the autumn of 2022.
How will F-16 jets protect Ukraine?
Russia is increasingly using guided bombs against Ukrainian border towns. The planes do not fly close to the border and bomb civilians from a safe distance with impunity.
Ukrainian Armed Forces will only have a way to counter such tactics once they receive F-16 universal combat aircraft from the West.
Although they will not be a panacea for all Russian air attacks, they can close many gaps in the defence of Ukrainian skies. Ukraine insists that the main guarantee of safe skies is modern Western aircraft. The F-16 provision is a quick and effective solution.
The range of tasks that F-16 jets will perform in Ukraine is also quite wide. First, it will strengthen Ukraine’s air defence, as the F16 is an ideal hunter for Russian combat drones.
Secondly, the long-range missiles used on F-16s will help the Ukrainian Army to destroy Russian equipment and logistics. The war is far from over, and in early 2024, the renewed Ukrainian Air Force may surprise the Russians, ending their superiority in the air.
F-16 fighter jet: technical characteristics?
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine light fighter developed by General Dynamics for the US Air Force.
Main technical characteristics of the F-16:
- length: 15.06 m;
- height: 4,88 м;
- wingspan: 9,96 м;
- empty weight: 8570 kg
- weight of the equipped: 12000 kg
- Maximum speed: 2410 km/h
- Top speed near the ground: 1470 km/h
- flight range: 4220 km
- Combat radius: 550 km
- crew: 1 person
The fighter is armed with a six-barrel General Electric M61-A-1 aircraft gun (6,000 rounds per minute, 511 rounds), up to six AIM-9L/M/P Sidewinder short-range guided missiles.
The fighter-bomber version can carry air-to-surface guided missiles, guided bombs with laser and optoelectronic guidance systems, and conventional Mk.82, Mk.83 and Mk.84 bombs. The F-16ADF can carry the AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range air-to-air missile. It is possible to use air-to-surface missiles AGM-65A/B/D Maverick.
Are F-16s better than MiG jets and SU bombers?
Russian propaganda media publish comparative tables of fighter jet performance, which suggest that Su aircraft are no worse than F-16s. However, these tables compare parameters such as size or speed, which could be more decisive.
The F16s are ahead of Russian fighters in many considerations. The smaller size of the F-16 is its advantage. In addition, American fighters have a better radar system. This means that the F-16 will “see” Russian Sukhoi and MiGs at a greater distance than they can.
The big difference between all Russian aircraft and the F-16 is that the F-16 is less visible to enemy radar systems and airborne radars because it has an effective reflective surface of only 1 square metre. In contrast, the MiG-29 has 29 square metres.
In other words, the F-16 is less visible. It also has an on-board radar that can see a hundred kilometres further than the enemy. And the missiles used by the F-16 are more long-range, flying 50-70 km further than the missiles of the same MiG-29, Ukrainian military analysts say.
Hetman says that a possible air battle between the MiG-29 and the F-16 would not have started because the F-16 would have seen the enemy aircraft earlier and destroyed it.
Why does Ukraine need F-16s?
The Ukrainian Air Force says Russian aviation currently has a numerical and technological advantage over Ukrainian aviation. Protecting the Armed Forces and civilians in the combat zone from enemy aircraft and helicopters will help save many lives.
Despite the effective operation of Ukrainian air defence, empowered with Western systems, it destroys about 75% of Russian cruise missiles and attack drones while the rest still hit targets.
Soon, F-16 fighter jets can eliminate air threats at the borders, preventing missiles and drones from reaching Ukrainian cities. Also, the F16s will allow Ukraine to counter Russian guided bombs effectively.