Ukraine has begun 'in the air' training on F-16s, a key development in its fight against Russia

Ukraine has begun 'in the air' training on F-16s, a key development in its fight against Russia
  • Ukraine's pilots are now learning to fly Western F-16 fighter jets.

  • Ukraine has sought F-16s since the early days of Russia's invasion.

  • Ukraine's Soviet-era MiG-31 and Su-27 are outmatched by newer Russian jets.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has long said the country's long-term security hinges on its ability to compete with Russian air power.

So, for Ukraine's allies, it was welcome news that Ukraine's pilots are finally flying F-16 fighter jets.

Yuriy Ignat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that Ukrainian soldiers had begun "in the air" flight training on F-16 jets supplied by Western countries, according to Defense Blog, a military blog run by a former Ukrainian defense consultant.

"Some pilots are already undergoing air training with an instructor on combat aircraft," Ignat said during a nationally televised broadcast, according to the outlet. "So everything is going according to plan."

Ukraine has sought F-16s for its arsenal of fighter jets since the early days of Russia's invasion. John Baum, a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel, previously told Insider that the American-made F-16 is one of the "most capable" dogfighting jets in the world.

Russia's more technologically advanced jets, like the MiG-31 and Su-25, can outmaneuver Ukraine's Soviet-era MiG-29 and Su-27 using advanced equipment, Insider previously reported.

While Ukraine needs the modern F-16 to better compete, it also needs them because it's proving difficult to repair its current fleet of fighter jets.

Brynn Tannehill, a defense expert and former US Navy pilot, previously told Insider that Ukraine is having trouble replacing parts on its Soviet-made jets because those parts are largely inside Russia.

While a small group of Ukrainians are training on the F-16s in the United States, most of them are in Romania. Five F-16s supplied by the Dutch are now at a Romanian training center. The Netherlands Armed Forces said it expects to supply another 18 jets by the end of the year.

Defense experts previously told Insider that adding AIM-9 and AIM-120 missiles could give the F-16s in Ukraine an "incredible capability" for close-range battles. The missiles use infrared, heat-seeking guidance to deliver a high-explosive warhead to its target.

On August 29, the US Department of Defense announced it was sending AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles to Ukraine as part of a $250 million security assistance package.

Read the original article on Business Insider