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The Ukrainian military's top brass expect to use U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets in combat as early as this winter, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Sept. 10.
According to Kyiv's military leadership, this optimistic schedule could give Ukrainian troops a significant new advantage on the battlefield next year.
Training for Ukrainian troops to operate the aircraft, which will take place at the Morris National Guard Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, will begin in either September or October.
WSJ reported, citing U.S. and Ukrainian officials, that Kyiv believes several Ukrainian pilots who are well-versed in English may be prepared to operate F-16s by February.
Language courses for those who do not speak English will reportedly behin in a few weeks in San Antonio, Texas.
However, WSJ said U.S. sources were more pessimistic regarding the timeline, suggesting the pilots would not be prepared until at least mid-2024.
Meanwhile, U.S. General (ret.) Ben Hodges reportedly believes U.S. officials have placed too much emphasis on language and believes flight training can be completed in just three months.
“They need to fly a plane, they don't need to be able to read Shakespeare,” Hodges said.
Ukraine had been asking for F-16 fighter jets since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
On Aug. 22, the first Ukrainian pilots began training on F-16 fighter jets in Denmark. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said it would take at least six to seven months before Ukrainian pilots and technicians are ready to operate the aircraft.
During the NATO summit in Vilnius in mid-July, Reznikov announced the official formation of the "fighter jet coalition," a group of 11 countries that will assist Kyiv with training its pilots on F-16s and acquiring the aircraft.