US F-16s are exceeding the expectations of Ukraine's pilots, report says
- Ukrainian pilots training on US F-16s are "very impressed" with the fighter jets, a report said.
- The Ukrainian service of the Voice of America report cites a Ukrainian Air Force pilot.
Ukrainian pilots are "very impressed" with US F-16 fighter jets, the Ukrainian service of the Voice of America reported.
A pilot who went by the call sign "Phantom" said in an interview with the outlet that Ukrainian pilots training on the multirole fighters in the US and Europe had praised the aircraft.
"Our pilots are very impressed," he said. "This plane simply exceeded their expectations. Even with the amount of information they have received during training, they already see great prospects and great potential for how this aircraft will help our Air Force."
And you can imagine that there's information that they haven't learned yet, haven't given them yet, about what else this aircraft might be capable of."
But "Phantom" added that retraining pilots on the advanced aircraft did present certain challenges as many were accustomed to flying older Russian-built Su-27s and MiG-29s.
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder announced in August that the US would begin training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 jets "in support of the international effort to develop and strengthen Ukraine's long-term defenses."
The US started training Ukrainian pilots in October, while Britain's Royal Air Force began in August, putting pilots through flying and English language lessons before a first cohort began specific F-16 training in Denmark in December.
Grant Shapps, the UK Defence Secretary, said in a press release at the time that while Ukraine had been "vulnerable" to Russian air attacks during the early stages of the conflict, "its Armed Forces are now able to intercept and destroy the overwhelming majority of incoming ordnance" thanks to international supporters providing air help for its air defenses.
"Together, we're now going further by ensuring Ukraine has a modern air force in the future, formed around the highly capable fourth-generation F-16 fighter jet," he added.
Ukraine's Defense Minister, Rustem Umerov, said, "Ukraine highly values the pilot training that the UK and other partners are providing," adding that it provided a "rapid and effective program to equip Ukrainian pilots with the skills they need in the war against Russia."
It will still be several months before they see action against Russian forces, a Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said.
The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway are offering as many as 60 F-16s to Ukraine, The Telegraph reported.
The 49-foot-long aircraft can carry two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, two AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, and two 2,400-pound external fuel tanks. It is also equipped with one M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon.
It adds that it can fly more than 500 miles when conducting air-to-surface operations.
But the Atlantic Council think tank expressed doubt in a report in August that the fighter jet would prove to be a game changer in the war, as Russia's S-400 surface-to-air missile systems would likely pose a serious threat to all Ukrainian jets and force them to fly at lower altitudes, putting them at a disadvantage.
Despite this, it noted that "the effort spent training Ukrainian pilots, ground crews, and logisticians to operate and maintain these aircraft will have long-term value."
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