US Naval Aviator explains why maintainers rather than pilots are the long pole in the tent to stand up Ukrainian Air Force F-16 squadrons

US Naval Aviator explains why maintainers rather than pilots are the long pole in the tent to stand up Ukrainian Air Force F-16 squadrons

By Dario Leone
May 29 2024
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First batch of F-16s will be delivered to Ukraine this summer

As already reported, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib told the Belgian broadcaster RTL on May 28 that her country will supply Ukraine with 30 F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft by 2028.

She added that the tirst of these aircraft should arrive already “by the end of the year.”

Belgium was among the first countries to join the coalition established in the summer of 2023 to bolster Ukraine’s Air Force. The initiative has been spearheaded by the US, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway have also pledged to supply Ukraine with dozens of US-made fourth-generation jets.

Louis Gossett Jr., aka Colonel Charles ‘Chappy’ Sinclair who helped Doug Masters to rescue his father in Iron Eagle, passed away
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET  YOURS.  F-16CM Fighting Falcon 20th Fighter Wing, 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers”, SW/94-0044 – Shaw AFB, SC

In fact, the first batch of F-16s will be delivered to Ukraine this summer the Danish Defense Ministry announced earlier this year.

The long pole in the tent to stand up Ukrainian Air Force F-16 squadrons

But what if individuals, recently retired F-16 pilots, volunteered their services in Ukraine to expedite F-16 deployment? Or create an expeditionary unit of former and current F-16 pilots from countries that are un-aligned with Russia?

Adam Daymude, former US Navy EA-18G Growler pilot, explains on Quora;

‘Though I flew the Growler, believe me, this thought has crossed my mind a time or two. I’ve been out of the cockpit for a bit, but the tactics would come back quickly and I’d just need to learn the switchology of the Viper. So why aren’t we flocking over there to help level the playing field?

‘I honestly don’t think it’s the pilots that are the long pole in the tent with regards to standing up F-16 squadrons. Yes, training pilots takes a lot of time but we’re only talking about a small cadre of most likely former pilots that already have basic airmanship skills. I think it’s these guys:

US Naval Aviator explains why maintainers rather than pilots are the long pole in the tent to stand up Ukrainian Air Force F-16 squadrons

‘It varies from platform to platform, but in Growlers, for every pilot, there are 25–30 enlisted sailors supporting that mission. We would staff to 1.5X the number of aircraft in the squadron. So, in a Growler squadron, with only 5 aircraft, we would have 7–8 pilots and 7–8 Electronic Warfare Officers (EWOs). Enlisted personnel in the squadron were typically ~150, with the vast majority of those being aircraft maintainers. Most importantly, we have a core of NCOs that we justifiably call the backbone of the Navy.

Training maintainers for Ukraine’s F-16s

‘Training wrench turners isn’t the problem. Where are the experienced maintainers with 100’s of hours turning wrenches that can QA work done by junior personnel? Maintenance of our aircraft is one of our strong points and I’m sure we’re trying to bring the Ukrainians up to speed.

Daymude concludes;

‘I do have a caveat though. This is assuming NATO doesn’t get involved in the maintenance and logistics of Ukraine’s F-16s. That’s a very tenuous position to be in, though, especially if NATO troops are in the line of fire.

‘Even if we did head out there, we wouldn’t be as effective as we are with, in the Navy’s case, an entire air wing of aircraft to plan strikes with. It’d scare the bejeezus out of me to fly into the teeth of the Russian air defenses without AWACS support.’

F-16 model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham / U.S. Air Force


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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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