The United States will begin training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets in September at U.S. Air Force bases in two southern states, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.
The training, which will include “several pilots and dozens of maintainers,” will start in September with English-language classes to be offered at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder told a press briefing.
After the trainees grasp the necessary language skills, they will then be trained on how to actually fly the F-16, and this process will begin in October at Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona, Ryder said.
The training in the United States “will be the fundamental fighter pilot training,” he said, adding that the exact curriculum for the Ukrainian pilots will depend on their levels of experience, of which an assessment is also part of the training program.
On the duration of the training, Ryder said it typically takes eight months for a new F-16 pilot with not a lot of training on the U.S. side to complete the process, and “within the five-month range” for an experienced pilot receiving “upgrade training.”
Currently, European countries are leading the effort to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s and other advanced fighters made by Western countries, with Demark and the Netherlands now prepared to undertake the task. The U.S. government previously said it would do its part to provide training on U.S. soil if and when Europe reached the full capacity.
Without giving a specific timeline of F-16 deliveries, Ryder said it could be months ahead, adding that European countries are looking to provide the aircraft “and the United States will support that effort through the third-party transfer process.”