US to train Ukrainians to fly F-16s starting in October

Aug 25, 2023, 7:00 PM

FILE - A Romanian Air Force F- 16s military fighter jet, left, and a Portuguese Air Force F- 16s mi...

FILE - A Romanian Air Force F- 16s military fighter jet, left, and a Portuguese Air Force F- 16s military fighter jets participating in NATO's Baltic Air Policing Mission operate over the Baltic Sea, Lithuanian airspace, on May 22, 2023. The United States has given its approval for the Netherlands to deliver F-16s to Ukraine, the Dutch defense minister said Friday, Aug. 18, 2023 in a major gain for Kyiv even though the fighter jets won’t have an immediate impact on the almost 18-month war. The United States will begin training Ukrainians to fly F-16s beginning in October. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, File)

(AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — As the war in Ukraine continues, the United States has announced it will begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s.

The training will take place at Morris Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, and will begin in October.

Missy Ryan, a national security reporter with The Washington Post, discusses with KSL NewsRadio what is known so far about the training.


“And that is expected to take a number of months depending on the scale of the different pilots and their experience levels,” she said. “It’ll include combat maneuvers, weapons use, centrifuge training.”

Ryan says there will be additional training for maintenance personnel. This would also include air traffic control. 

“They will also be training several dozen, at least, maintenance personnel,” she said. “That will then go back and help Ukraine maintain this aircraft and keep it in the air.”

Language lessons for Ukrainian pilots of F-16s

Before the training on the F-16s take place, Ryan says the pilots will be taught English at a base in Texas.

“And basically, the pilots need to have a certain level of English proficiency to receive this instruction,” she said. “Even people who do speak some English, they need to learn the right jargon. And the right vocabulary in order to safely do this training because they’re going to be up in the air with trainer pilots.”

Ryan says the initial pilot training program can last up to eight months for beginners. From there, she says there is specialized or upgrade training that can last up to five months. 

“It is a multi-step process,” she said. “And that’s something that happens . . . for US pilots at Luke Air Force Base. And that is an eight-month process, but those are experienced pilots who get selected for the F-16. ”

Ryan says it will be well into 2024 before the planes could be in the air. And that leads to an important question, according to Ryan.

“Where will the battle be at the point where Ukraine has the F-16s and the pilots ready to fly them?” she asked. “Because we’re talking about a fairly significant lag time. It could be a very different battlefield.”

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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US to train Ukrainians to fly F-16s starting in October