The Pentagon says the military will start training Ukrainian pilots to fly U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets inside the United States beginning in October.
Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, told reporters on Thursday that the training would involve “several” Ukrainian pilots and dozens of Ukrainian ground staff who will provide maintenance of the aircraft given to Kyiv.
The training is part of a U.S. and European effort to provide advanced fighter jets to Ukraine for long-term defense.
Ryder stressed that the F-16s are not intended for the current counteroffensive underway against Russian forces.
The flight training will be conducted at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona. Prior to this training, the pilots will conduct English-language training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, “given the complexities and specialized English that’s required to fly these aircraft,” Ryder said.
Training typically lasts about eight months for a new F-16 pilot in the United States, but an experienced pilot could complete the training within about five months, according to Ryder.
Courses include centrifuge training to learn how to cope with gravitational forces, basic fighter maneuvers and weapons employments.
Ukraine has repeatedly asked for advanced fighter jets to help defend its cities from Russian forces. Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have announced they will supply the F-16s to Ukraine.
The U.S. military’s top general warned in May that F-16s won’t act as a “magic weapon” for Ukraine, but the U.S. fully supports those leading the F-16 training and transfer process.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also warned the cost to get these aircraft to Ukraine and sustain them would be high.
“Ten F-16s is a billion dollars. You add the sustainment costs, that’s another billion dollars. So, you’re talking about $2 billion for 10 aircraft [while] the Russians have 1,000 fourth- and fifth-generation fighters,” he said.