Ukraine’s F-16 squadrons could take “four or five years” to get ready for battle

However, these planes will be useless for Ukraine in this war, considering that, after learning English before flying, a pilot can only learn to take off, land, and some basic functions in half a year of training.

Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher

Three European countries – the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway – have confirmed that they will deliver American F-16 fighter jets to Kiev. However, instead of military supremacy over the Russian air force, it will bring problems to Ukraine, which it must urgently solve – and one of the issues is language, as mundane as that might sound. In addition, Ukraine has an unrealistic timeframe for when it wants to complete pilot training.

Ukraine lacks the infrastructure to accommodate fourth-generation F-16 fighter jets, such as well-equipped airports. Entire airports would have to be built, not just runways, and must include command towers, radar fields, aircraft maintenance and servicing centres, warehouses for air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, etc.

In addition, pilot training is necessary, and not knowing English is the first obstacle for most Ukrainian pilots. Politico cited a US official and a source familiar with Ukrainian planning, who was not authorised to speak on the plan, who said only eight Ukrainian pilots are fluent in English, thus making them ready to begin training. According to the US official, 20 pilots who speak some English are available to start language courses in the UK in the coming days.

Effectively, Ukrainian pilots cannot master the basics of flying on American planes without knowledge of English.

In addition, learning to fly with modern technology takes several years of training, not the six months often quoted by Western and Ukrainian officials and media.

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder disclosed that the US will begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets in October at Morris Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, preceded by an English language course for pilots in September.

The general said that “several pilots and dozens of maintainers” would be trained without specifying the exact number, adding that transferring F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would take “months, not weeks.”

Ryder added that the F-16 fighter jets should strengthen the military potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and not meet the needs of the Ukrainian military in the current counteroffensive. He admitted that Ukraine does not have the necessary infrastructure to station F-16 fighter jets.

It was planned that European countries would train the Ukrainians, and the US would join if their capabilities were exhausted. Western media reported that a coalition of 11 countries will begin training Ukrainian pilots to operate the F-16 in August. These countries include Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, and Great Britain.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he expects 42 planes from the Netherlands and 19 from Denmark. At the same time, the Netherlands did not specify the number of aircraft or when they will be made available to Ukraine.

However, these planes will be useless for Ukraine in this war, considering that a pilot can only learn to take off, land, and some basic functions in half a year of training. Nonetheless, the training of Ukrainian pilots has already occurred, specifically in Romania.

A question raised is what kind of weapons the West will deliver to Kiev for American fighter jets. Some Western media indicate that the F-16 fighter jets, which will be handed over to Kiev next year, will only have access to short-range missiles as it is doubtful that the US will agree to supply Ukraine with JASSM missiles, which have a range of a thousand kilometres.

Another question is how long F-16s will last on Ukrainian territory, as there is no doubt that Russia will destroy them as soon as they arrive in that country.

All the supposed goodwill surrounding Ukraine’s pursuit of F-16s was blackmarked on August 25 with the death of three Ukrainian Air Force pilots, including a renowned fighter jet pilot with the call sign “Juice.” The crash marks a major upset for Kiev, which has been looking to secure advanced F-16 jets to strengthen its Soviet-era air force, but this will prove to be a significant morale hit for Ukraine.

The morale was also dealt a blow when General James Hecker, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, told reporters that getting F-16 squadrons ready for battle could take “four or five years.”

“Hecker was talking about top expertise, but even for basic capability — such as solo air-to-ground attacks — six months will likely still be needed. And there’s no way around it either,” wrote Politico.

But as the West should have learnt by now, they are not dealing with AK-47-wielding peasants in Afghanistan, but the advanced and highly professional Russian military, where top pilots are vital. Six-month-trained Ukrainian pilots will end up in the same way as the Western-trained and armed Ukrainian army units involved in the counteroffensive – obliterated.

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