“So we trained the top defenders in Kiev (very high grades).”

“Above average for landing maneuvers”, “Above average for low altitude flights”, “Above average for attack maneuvers”. Here are the loud and booming sounds collected by Ukrainian pilots training in the United States for their “pass” on F16 Which will be donated by European countries: “above average” (above average) for a Ukrainian captain who used to fly Su-27s and for a pilot who has so far compared Russian planes in the controls of the MiG-29. A “report card” for the two, who may already have known English aliases, was compiled on March 22, 2023, but the USAF memo shows that the training period in Arizona was scheduled to take place as early as December 2022.

F-16, General Tricarico: “They must strike Russia and search for individual military vehicles or installations”

F-16, USAF Memo

The bottom line: Ukrainian pilots, who are very popular since the times of the Soviet Union and express the aviation sector which is still at the forefront, can make the “switch” (corridor) within four months, a very restrictive period which also serves to prepare the running of the logistics chain (maintenance, armament). The first F-16s to be redeployed to Ukraine could be those of Poland, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Romania and the Netherlands, which they also have online (the orange in the photo above has the “experimental” livery, used especially in the demonstration airshow ), Portugal and Turkey. Italy and Norway also had it, but for a limited time: Italy rented 34 from 2003 to 2012 to bridge the delay in the arrival of Eurofighters but this is a closed chapter and we don’t see how our country can participate, moreover in a short time, in training Ukrainian pilots to transition to this fighter.

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After all, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, joint training between Ukrainian and American pilots since 1993 was very frequent, especially in the skies over Europe. And there was no shortage of transfers of Ukrainian top guns to the United States. With these joint exercises, with these formation flights for example between the F-15 Eagle and the Su-27 Flanker, the US Air Force was able to closely study the “machines” and strategies similar in fact to those of the Russian Air Force. Since then, Ukrainian pilots have garnered a great deal of respect from Americans, not to mention now that they are fighting to defend their homeland in a spirit reminiscent of the Poles who enlisted in the RAF, minus the pilots, to fight the Nazis. They are pilots, Ukrainians, who fly low with their bipeds even at 15 meters above sea level, while the Americans are never lower than 35.

American F-15s in formation with Ukrainian Su-27s in 2018

Top Ukrainian guns

Certainly the Ukrainian pilots sent to the United States in recent days were selected among the most skilled, but it was not new for the Americans to see their highly educational abilities which also include the use of language and terminology for many different aspects. Ukrainian pilots know, on average, English, but switching from Cyrillic to English and vice versa is difficult, even when dealing with guides as thick as telephone manuals, instrument manuals, and technical standards. Moreover, it is not enough to fly the fighter, you need to know how to exploit it, if you really want to fight the Russians, as well as better than the MiG and Sukhoi and the same goes for the equipment related to armament: air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, means of electronic warfare, radar, communications. And even going from a twin-engine fighter to a single-engine fighter (although bi-sonic) is no small feat: you really need to think differently if you know you can only rely on one or two engines.

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Ukrainian pilots will have to work hard, but they are able to do it: the F16, moreover, was the first fighter that could be piloted not with a conventional joystick between the legs, but with a joystick (yes, like that. from the playstation) held on the right in the passenger compartment. In short, we need to develop a different sensitivity than the “boys” learned in flight schools. Then there are perceptions of formation flying that really differ between the western bloc and the former Soviet bloc and in fact the average number of Ukrainian pilots drops, as it makes sense, when it comes to flying with other planes according to the standards it was born.

US Air Force memo

The note that can be read above and below (see the Facebook profile of the pilot Giulio Bernaccia) relates to tests carried out in high-tech simulators (virtual reality) and the dates of the documents allow us to understand the difference between the real skirmishes and the political chess that NATO plays with Russia. The United States, which has built more than 4,600 General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons, will not donate the aircraft worldwide in more than a dozen versions, but will leave them to European allies while contributing anyway to allies. To the most crucial stage in the operation: training Ukrainian pilots who, Kiev hopes, will receive at least 60 fighters. We can calculate a minimum of 3 pilots required to get the most out of each fighter and a minimum of 300 maintenance technicians who must also be trained.

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the exams

The tests were carried out on the simulator with the exception of functions hidden by the Americans: the goal was to quickly understand the professionalism of the Ukrainians regarding the use of the F-16. The results showed that the Ukrainians’ performance (despite the short pre-test briefing period) was better than the average of the USAF pilots. In short, drivers who know their stuff even if there are of course “classes” of strategies and “car” usage that they will have to learn almost from scratch.

In all likelihood, these weeks tests were carried out in the USA to check whether the switch to F16s can really be carried out in such an extremely short time (one third of the standard period). The answer was positive.

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