Zelensky: F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots to begin this month

In an address to heads of Ukrainian diplomatic missions on Aug. 2, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots is to begin this month.  

“The delivery and combat use of F-16s by our pilots should take place as soon as possible,” stated Zelensky.

At the Vilnius NATO summit in July, Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov signed a memorandum with 11 countries outlining the F-16 training terms for Ukrainian pilots.

Zelensky’s announcement corresponds with the information that officials told Reuters during the summit. They said that the program will start in Denmark in August and a training hub will be set up in Romania.

However, U.S. officials believe the exact plans of the training remain unclear and are still waiting on European leaders to submit a definitive training plan, CNN reported on Aug. 1.

The start of the program is contingent upon receiving authorization from the U.S.

The transfer of F-16 equipment and materials, including flight simulators and training manuals, also requires U.S. government authorization.

Ukraine has received Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland and Slovakia but has long been pushing for the more advanced American-made aircraft.

On July 21, U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said that Ukraine will receive F-16 fighter jets before the end of the year, after President Joe Biden gave a “green light” to allow European countries to launch the training program earlier that month.

The timeline for the Ukrainian training program accelerates the standard U.S. Air Force pilot training by omitting certain missions and tasks, such as air-to-air refueling and instrument landing procedures, that are not essential for Ukrainian pilots on the battlefield.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has previously said it requires at least four squadrons of F-16s – 48 planes in total - to liberate territory from Russia.

Zelensky: F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots to begin this month