The Netherlands, Denmark, and the United States have joined forces to provide training to Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 aircraft, with the aim of enabling them to undertake combat missions at the earliest opportunity.
In a recent news conference following a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group on Thursday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin made remarks that were reported by CBS News on 15 June. According to Austin, Denmark and the Netherlands have been tasked with spearheading the training of Ukrainian personnel on F-16s in the upcoming weeks.
An unnamed eastern European member state of Nato will host the training centre, while the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom collaborate to develop a training programme for pilots. Denmark, with its availability of flight simulators, is a potential location for the training site
On 12 June Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told Reuters in an interview that the intended start dater for the programme was this Summer, but expressed middling confidence in the date: ”This summer is our ambition. And we’ll see if that’s realistic.” She went on today that the partner nations aim to have the training programme fully operational within six months.
Two days later, on 14 June, Ollongren went on to announce on twitter that she had ”just informed the House of Representatives about new support for Ukraine. We are going to start the F-16 training within a few months and work with partners on an F-16 training centre. We also continue to strengthen Ukrainian air defences.”
Reuters also reported that Ukraine is preparing to send a group of combat pilots to receive training on how to fly US-manufactured F16 fighter jets. The Ukrainian air force spokesman, Yuriy Ihnat, has confirmed that “several dozen” pilots will be sent for the programme, while two anonymous sources told Reuters that the training will begin with two groups, each comprising of 12 Ukrainian pilots who already have experience in operating MiG-29 fighter jets.
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Netherlands’ Ministry of Defence released a statement on 15 June outlining the key components of the project. These include providing a swift conversion course for Ukrainian pilots to operate the F-16, offering basic or “initial” flight training, and creating a final destination for F-16 training in an Eastern European NATO member state.
According to Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was present with Austin, it would require a significant amount of time to establish a Ukrainian air force that could compete with Russia’s numerous fourth and fifth generation aircraft.