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Kiev Bemoans, U.S., NATO Not Training Enough Ukrainian Pilots To Fly F-16s

The training of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s has hit a bottleneck—the limited capacity of the training schools, which are also training pilots from several other countries—and this is frustrating the Kiev regime. Ukraine says it has 30 pilots who are eligible to start training in the U.S. immediately, Politico reported yesterday, citing sources “with direct knowledge of the request.” Yet the Biden administration has told the Kiev regime that it lacks the school seats in its Arizona-based program to accept more than 12 pilot trainees at a time. Two other facilities in Denmark and Romania have a similar issue with available training spots.

Kiev is pressuring the U.S. to allow more of its pilots in, but the U.S. has told the Ukrainian military that, in addition to limited space, other countries are already in line for F-16 training at Morris Air National Guard base in Tucson, Arizona, and that it cannot break its commitments to those nations. “We understand they don’t want to break those contracts, but they could move their American pilots to a different base for training,” said Sasha Ustinova, a Ukrainian lawmaker who has advocated for the training.

A handful of Ukrainian pilots are training in Denmark, but that course is expected to shut down next year, as Denmark is converting to the F-35. A training center being set up in Romania by Lockheed Martin and its subcontractor Draken International is reported to be expensive and also will have a limited number of spots.

A total of 20 Ukrainian F-16 pilots are expected to graduate by the end of this year, sufficient to operate 10 jets (half a squadron), according to a former Pentagon official. Eight new pilots are scheduled to begin training in Romania, and eight more will soon arrive in Tucson, a former official said. The facility in Denmark will not accept any additional pilots.

In short, Ukraine is getting F-16s but won’t have enough pilots to fly them.