Lockheed Martin to establish European F-16 Training Center in Romania to train Ukrainian Viper pilots (and F-16 drivers from other regional operators)

Lockheed Martin to establish European F-16 Training Center in Romania to train Ukrainian Viper pilots (and F-16 drivers from other regional operators)

By Dario Leone
Sep 1 2023
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European F-16 Training Center

Lockheed Martin and the governments of Romania and the Netherlands have announced a Letter of Intent to establish the European F-16 Training Center in Romania.

“The F-16 continues to play a crucial role in 21st Century Security missions for the United States, Europe, NATO and allies around the world,” said OJ Sanchez, vice president and general manager, Integrated Fighter Group, in a Lockheed Martin press release. “Lockheed Martin is proud to partner with the Netherlands and Romania on this European F-16 Training Center in Romania, which will enhance mission readiness through a comprehensive F-16 training solution for Romanian pilots.”

The center will focus on ensuring effectiveness and safety of Romanians flying and operating F-16 fighter jets and could eventually expand to include training for other nations.

Ukrainian F-16 pilots training

“Once details are finalized, we are confident the training center will ultimately benefit Romania and other regional F-16 operators, including potentially Ukraine,” added Sanchez.

More than 60 F-16 will be donated to Ukraine by Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. Ukraine continues to fight off Russia’s full-scale invasion, and the US has agreed to expedite the third-party transfer and provide F-16 training materials. As reported by Air & Space Forces Magazine, some Ukrainian pilots are receiving language training in the UK and the US before taking part in an F-16 training program at Morris Air National Guard Base, Ariz., where most foreign military sales F-16 pilots receive instruction.

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Even though some countries were promoting the idea of Ukrainian pilots flying the jet in the war against Russia by the end of this year, Gen. James B. Hecker, US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) commander, said earlier this month that Ukraine would not get a basic F-16 capability until 2024. According to Hecker the F-16 will be more interoperable with air-to-ground weapons the US and other countries are providing to Ukraine (than those weapons are with Ukraine’s Russian-design MiG-29s and Su-27s) but it will not be a “silver bullet” that will suddenly turn the tide in the 18-month-old war.

Nevertheless, if the Ukrainian pilots have access to a nearby training facility—such as in Romania— fewer of the jets Ukraine receives will have to be set aside for training, meaning more will be available for combat, an industry source explained to Air & Space Forces Magazine.

The F-16

Lockheed Martin has supported F-16s worldwide for decades, with extensive experience in pilot and maintainer training. Aircrews from the Netherlands and Romania currently train with Lockheed Martin F-16 simulators, and this training center will support readiness through an affordable, efficient sequence of ground-based and flight training missions.

There are hundreds of F-16s operating across Europe today, enabling multiple European countries, including Romania, to protect airspace and be part of a web of integrated NATO peacekeeping coverage. Lockheed Martin continues to work side by side with European operators to modernize the F-16 to remain ahead of the evolving threat.

The F-16 is a strategic and valuable choice for many customers around the world seeking advanced fighter aircraft capabilities, regional and worldwide partnerships, and affordable lifecycle costs. More than 3,100 F-16s are operating today in 25 countries. The F-16 has flown an estimated 19.5 million flight hours and at least 13 million sorties. Today’s latest version, the Block 70/72, offers unparalleled capabilities and will be flown by six countries and counting.

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Photo credit: NATO’s Allied Air Command

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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