USAF Airman explains why it will take another year and a half before Ukraine has one fully operational F-16 squadron

USAF Airman explains why it will take another year and a half before Ukraine has one fully operational F-16 squadron

By Dario Leone
Jul 9 2024
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First batch of F-16s to be delivered to Kyiv this summer

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 first of these aircraft should arrive already “by the end of the year.”

On May 28 Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Belgium on May 28 to sign a bilateral security agreement. Lahbib said that the agreement on F-16 fighter jets will be signed on the same day.

As reported by The Kyiv Independent, 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.

Besides providing several F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv, Brussels will also help with the training for Ukrainian pilots in EU countries.

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

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

Viper impact on the battlefield

But will the F-16 effectively help Ukraine in the ongoing war against Russia?

Dennis Watson, former USAF Airman, explains on Quora;

‘A total of 20 Ukrainian pilots are expected to graduate F-16 flight training this year.

US Navy EA-18G pilot explains why Ukraine should use F-16s just for SEAD missions and not for air-to-air missions
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-16CM Fighting Falcon – Wild Weasel 50th Anniversary, 2015

‘Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium alone are slated to send 60 F-16’s to Ukraine by the end of the year. That’s three airframes for every one trained pilot. The ideal ratio is almost the reverse. It would benefit Ukraine to have at least two trained pilots for every airframe, since people get tired before aircraft.

‘Unfortunately, both European and American F-16 schoolhouses are at capacity with only a few slots given to foreign pilots each year. In the case of the US, foreign pilot training is typically scheduled years in advance and the US can’t easily change its obligations to train its own pilots as well as those of allied nations. That said, Europe, the US, and defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, seem to be making every effort to adjust to the new reality.

Another year and a half before Ukraine has one fully operational F-16 squadron

‘Additionally, Ukrainian pilots must learn English with a strong emphasis on aviation and military terminology before they begin pilot training, which also takes time. They won’t gain fluency in such a short amount of time, but you can get close after about a year.’

Watson concludes;

‘What it means is that we’re still looking at another year and a half before Ukraine has even one fully operational F-16 squadron. Until then, we can’t hope to see these fighters making much more of a difference. The major hang up for Ukraine’s Air Force right now isn’t aircraft — it’s trained pilots.’

F-16 model
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Photo credit: Alan Wilson via Wikipedia


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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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