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12 Ukrainian pilots could fly F-16s as soon as summer, but there's shortage of jets

12 Ukrainian pilots could fly F-16s as soon as summer, but there's shortage of jets Illustrative photo (Getty Images)
Author: Maria Kholina

Twelve Ukrainian pilots are set to be combat-ready on F-16 fighter jets by this summer, yet there aren't enough aircraft, according to The New York Times.

The F-16 jets are ready, and instructor pilots are waiting at a new training center in Romania established to train Ukrainian pilots in combat flights on F-16s.

"But there’s a catch: The Ukrainian pilots have yet to arrive, despite declarations last summer that the center would play a crucial role in getting them into the air to defend their country from increasingly deadly Russian strikes," the report says.

It remains unclear when Ukrainian pilots will commence training at the center located at the Fetesti airbase in southeastern Romania, also used by NATO allies for fighter jet training.

"That is not to say that Ukraine’s pilots are not being prepared. Twelve pilots so far — fewer than a full squadron — are expected to be ready to fly F-16s in combat by this summer after 10 months of training in Denmark, Britain and the United States," says the report.

However, by the time the pilots return to Ukraine, as few as six F-16s will have been delivered out of about 45 of the fighter jets that European allies have promised.

F-16s for Ukraine

In August of last year, Denmark and the Netherlands pledged to provide Ukraine with 61 F-16 fighter jets.

For the deliveries to begin, Ukrainian pilots and ground personnel need to undergo training, while Ukraine must prepare the infrastructure.

Recently, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat disclosed that training for the first group of Ukrainian pilots on F-16s in the United States is expected to conclude in early summer.