Ukrainian pilots have started how to fly the most advanced fighter to be delivered to them, the F-16s, on Polish soil.
When asked about the commencement of training by Ukrinform, a source in the Polish government answered in the affirmative. “Yes, it’s true.”
EU High Representative Josep Borrell said earlier that training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16s had started in several countries, including Poland.
U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told reporters on Monday that the F-16 handover to Kyiv will take at least "several months,” and that a number of details have to be worked out before the Ukraine’s Air Force will be able to fly Western jets in large numbers.
“It’s been in the works, and there’s obviously been interest from Ukraine in getting that kind of capability,” Kendall said.
He added that there are "a lot of open possibilities, including our partners."
But still, this is a relatively rapid timeline, since it normally takes more than two years to train a new American pilot on the aircraft. Even a refresher course for an F-16 pilot who has stepped away from flying the jet for a while can take up to five months.
F-16s are considered high performance weapon systems with a range of 500 miles (860km), and would be a significant upgrade to the aircraft currently in Ukraine’s fleet.
Russia angered by U.S.’ decision to let allies send F-16s to Ukraine
Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov has stated that the F-16 transfer to Ukraine would raise the question of NATO’s involvement in the conflict.
“There is no infrastructure for the operation of the F-16 in Ukraine and the needed number of pilots and maintenance personnel is not there either,” Antonov said in remarks published on the embassy’s Telegram messaging channel on May 22.
“What will happen if the American fighters take off from NATO airfields, controlled by foreign ‘volunteers’?”
Alexander Grushko, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, has also expressed anguish against U.S.’ decision. “We see that the Western countries are still adhering to the escalation scenario… It involves enormous risks for themselves. In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the set goals.”