This May will earn a footnote in the Ukraine-Russia War for some positive, yet belated progress in establishing the Ukrainian Air Force’s F16 training enterprise. There is no need to buckle up – quite yet. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway are among the nations pledging to transfer F16s to Ukraine for training or operational missions, and committing training resources for the prospective F16 operator-nation’s pilots and maintenance personnel. France, the UK and US have ramped up their training efforts to support prospective Ukrainian F16 program personnel.

Last November NATO member Romania opened an international training hub for F16 jet pilots and maintainers from allied countries and other partners, including Ukraine. Lockheed Martin leads an S&T industry to operate the facility

 

No Ukrainian F16s on Mission, Yet

Plans to transfer F16s to Ukraine remain a work in progress. 

Nations continue to put down markers, from this summer to early 2025, for the delivery to Ukraine of dozens of F16s. These good intentions are being weighed against cascading, diverse forcing functions – from the availability of qualified Ukrainians for pilot and maintenance duties, to elections, budget and other domestic issues in the donating members’ nations.    

In a random progress update from donor nations, this May 27, Morten Kaus, Press Chief at the Danish Ministry of Defence, told MS&T: “We are working to donate the first F16s to Ukraine during the summer of 2024. Due to operational security the Danish Ministry of Defence can give no further details.”

In a second update, Belgium’s Federal Public Service website for Foreign Affairs and other national responsibilities was updated this May 23. The resource specified, in part, as a member of the F16 coalition for Ukraine: “Belgium is contributing towards the training of pilots and technicians and the maintenance of aircraft,” and “the maintenance and support of Belgian F16s destined for Ukraine.” 

 

Training Progress

Beyond aircraft, initial tranches of Ukrainian pilots and maintenance personnel are stepping up their progress through F16 program accession training. 

This March 22 the UK Ministry of Defence announced the first 10 Ukrainian pilots to have undergone intensive training under the guidance of Royal Air Force instructors graduated from flight school  -- with the S&T industry lending a hand.  

Fast forward to this month, when France illustrated its commitment to this program was well in hand. On May 18, France’s General Staff of the Armed Forces posted photos on X under the broad header of “contribution of the armies of France to the training of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

One image relevant to this article shows a Ukrainian pilot with that nation’s flag and emblem patches on the left arm inside the front cockpit of what appears to an Alpha Jet basic jet trainer.   

On May 21 the Netherlands Ministry of Defence announced it graduated a class of 10 Ukrainian solders as F16 maintenance personnel.  And across the Atlantic, this May 23, the Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing in Tucson Arizona reported the initial group of Ukrainian pilots graduated from US F16 training. As MS&T readers are aware the wing remains the Air Force’s premier training unit for foreign F16 pilots

 

Following the F16 Program Training Tail 

Too little, too late? Not enough airframes? Those are two of many questions regarding the transfers of F16s from NATO nations to Ukraine swirling around defense media circles.

While very important to the Ukrainian Air Force’s future, these and related topics are beyond the editorial purview of MS&T. This staff will continue to focus and comment on the evolution of the very important, dynamic – the training piece of that nation’s F16 program.