A contingent of Ukrainian pilots has recently started their F-16 training in the United States. The Pentagon has disclosed that the training period for Ukrainian aviators on American fighter aircraft is expected to take five to nine months.
Ukraine’s fighter fleet mainly consists of Soviet-built aircraft, including Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrums and Sukhoi Su-27 Flankers.
However, given the country’s need for enhanced airpower in the face of ongoing Russian aggression, Ukraine is poised to receive F-16 fighter jets once its pilots have completed the requisite training.
During a press briefing on October 31, Pentagon spokesperson Patrick S. Ryder said that completing the training program will rely on the pilots’ skills.
Ryder stated, “The Pentagon estimates it would take five to nine months for the Ukrainian pilots to complete the F16 training in Arizona. The graduation completion will be dependent on the individual proficiency of the pilots.”
Previously, the United States had announced that the first group of Ukrainian pilots undergoing F-16 training could finish the program within three months, with their involvement in combat missions scheduled for a later stage.
The Ukrainian pilots are currently in training with the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard, a specialized unit dedicated to providing training for international partners on fourth-generation fighter jets.
Before their flight training, the pilots had completed language instruction at the Defense Language Institute English Language Center, located in San Antonio, TX. A contingent of Ukrainian pilots based in Europe is also currently undergoing training using F-16 simulators.
Furthermore, the United States has further outlined its plan to train around 200 Ukrainian personnel to maintain these sophisticated jets following their language training.
Since last year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been making urgent appeals for F-16 fighter jets to enhance Ukraine’s capability to counter Russian attacks.
During the summer, a coalition of countries, with Denmark at the forefront, initiated the training of Ukrainian pilots on American F-16 jets. Additionally, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway have committed to supplying Ukraine with these fighter jets upon completing the training program.
On August 20, the Netherlands and Denmark pledged to deliver 61 aircraft to Ukraine, with 42 coming from the Netherlands and 19 from Denmark. Subsequently, Norway also affirmed its commitment to supply F-16s to Ukraine.
Taurus Integration Six Months Away
In addition to the F-16 fighter jets, Ukraine has been persistently seeking to acquire Taurus cruise missiles from Germany, but Berlin has so far declined to provide this long-range cruise missile to Kyiv.
However, integrating Taurus into Ukrainian aircraft and the associated training process is estimated to require a minimum of six months.
The Taurus KEPD 350E results from the collaboration between MBDA Deutschland GmbH and Saab Dynamics AB, operating under the umbrella of Taurus Systems GmbH.
Joachim Knopf, the CEO of the MBDA Deutschland-Saab Dynamics joint venture Taurus Systems, stated that the integration of the Taurus cruise missile into a Ukrainian aging Su-24 combat aircraft would require a couple of months, and the training of crews for its use would take three to four months.
He further noted that integrating Taurus into the F-16 combat aircraft designated for Ukraine would be more time-intensive, requiring one to one-and-a-half years.
Knopf also highlighted that Taurus is already operational with Luftwaffe Tornado, Spanish Air Force EF-18, and Republic of Korea Air Force F-15K combat aircraft. He anticipated that Taurus would also become compatible with the Eurofighter by 2028.
Describing Taurus as a bunker-buster missile with an intelligent programmable fuze capable of detecting layers when penetrating a target, Knopf noted that the missile could attain speeds of 900 km/h at an altitude of 50 meters.
Furthermore, he highlighted its resistance to spoofing in regions such as the Baltic and South China Sea and the capability of its swing wings to enhance its range by up to 10%.
However, the missile is currently not in production. The company said that their decision to resume Taurus missile production hinges on a directive from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz regarding the supply of Taurus to Ukraine.
It is estimated that the resumption of Taurus production might take approximately a year of preparations, possibly longer if there are delays related to electronic components and explosives.