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Ukrainian pilots start training on F-16s, test flights on Swedish Gripen jets

by Alexander Query and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 19, 2023 9:48 PM 3 min read
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Ukrainian pilots have already started a six-month training session on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on national television on Aug. 19.

Engineers and technicians also take part in the training, Reznikov said.

"This preparation period in the form of training will be spent on continuing the project to understand when we will have the planes directly," he said.

"And the most important thing is how many," Reznikov said.

The training of Ukrainian pilots was due to kick off in Denmark in late August, in partnership with the eleven nations included in the "fighter jet coalition," according to the Danish Defense Ministry.

Reznikov announced the formation of a coalition to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, led by Denmark and the Netherlands, during the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.

Romania is also on the list for training sessions organized by the coalition.

The Netherlands and Denmark received approval from the United States to supply F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine after Ukrainian pilots complete their training, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov announced on Twitter on Aug. 18.

"Our military has proven it's filled with fast learners. We will soon prove that Ukraine’s victory is inevitable. Thank you to all our partners and friends in the United States, the Netherlands, and Denmark," Reznikov wrote.

Prior to the recent approval, Denmark and the Netherlands confirmed their authorization from the United States to transfer F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen stated that Copenhagen contacted Washington with an inquiry about supplying aircraft to Kyiv and received "friendly response."

Rasmussen further noted that the timing for the transfer of these planes to Ukraine has yet to be finalized by the coalition of allies.

Around the same time, the U.S. gave the green light to Denmark's proposal to furnish educational resources for F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. The proposal includes instructional modules, documentation, and materials for classroom training involving sensitive details about U.S. technology.

Ukraine has been actively pushing for the U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to help counter Russia's air superiority, with many believing that it is necessary to achieve a successful counteroffensive.

Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Aug. 19 that Ukrainian pilots had begun test flights on Swedish Gripen fighter jets during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Stockholm.

According to Zelensky, he and Kristersson have also discussed Swedish JAS Gripen jet fighters and the potential transfer of some of them during the visit.

"We also talked about another strong Swedish machine, the Gripen aircraft. This is the pride of Sweden. And I am sure that Gripens can make our freedom much more secure," Zelensky said, adding that Ukrainian pilots are already taking part in the trials of the jets.

Sweden has previously agreed to train Ukrainian pilots on its Gripen jets but stopped short of pledging the aircraft itself.

"We do not have superiority in the sky. We do not have modern aircraft. And the Swedish Gripen is the pride of your state. And I believe the Prime Minister could share such pride with Ukraine," Zelensky said.

During the same conference, Zelensky said that he would conduct negotiations with "several" states to boost Western fighter jets delivery to Ukraine without naming the states.

Zelensky, without elaborating, added that in a few weeks, "relevant actions will take place, which, I strongly believe, will reveal the possibility of receiving the relevant aircraft in the future."

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