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Ukrainian Pilot Training on F-16 Jets to Commence in Romania, Boosting Defense Efforts Against Russian Invasion

US Proceeds with F-16 Transfer to Turkey as Sweden Receives NATO Approval

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The commencement of Ukrainian pilot training on United States-made F-16 fighter jets has been announced, with officials revealing that the training will take place in Romania starting in August. The announcement was made during the NATO summit in Lithuania, with Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov joined by Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren and Denmark’s acting Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen.

Poulsen expressed optimism about the training program, stating, “Hopefully, we will be able to see results in the beginning of next year,” during a press briefing. Reznikov shared his hope that the training would not exceed six months, aiming to have Ukrainian pilots ready to utilize the combat aircraft in the ongoing fight against Russia’s invasion of their country.

The training initiative is being led by the Netherlands and Denmark, with the participation of an 11-nation coalition, to equip Ukrainian pilots with the necessary skills to operate the US fighter jets. Ukraine believes that this training will play a crucial role in shifting the tide of the war in its favor.

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Previously seen as a controversial move, the training of Ukrainian pilots on advanced fighter planes received approval during the G7 summit in Japan in May. Russia, however, issued a warning, stating that providing Ukraine with F-16s would pose a “colossal risk” as it could potentially escalate the conflict to other parts of Europe.

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Although Ukraine’s allies have committed to providing training and other forms of support, it should be noted that the establishment of the fighter pilot school does not guarantee the actual delivery of F-16s to Kyiv. Ukraine’s military supporters have yet to commit to sending warplanes.

Romania, which shares a long border with Ukraine and has been a member of NATO since 2004 and the European Union since 2007, has responded to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine by increasing its defense spending. Following Moscow’s forces’ incursion into Ukraine in February 2022, NATO reinforced its presence on Europe’s eastern flank by deploying additional multinational battlegroups to member countries such as Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.

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010205-F-1631A-001 An U.S. F-16 flies towards Rimini, Italy to join with the Italian Air Force in a training mission. U.S. Air Forces from the 510th Fighter Squadron, Aviano Air Base, Italy and Italian Air Forces from the 83rd Combat Search and Rescue Squadron, Rimini, Italy, participated in a 4-day training mission from Feb. 5 to Feb. 8, 2001. The mission involved U.S. F-16 aircrews locating and authenticating survivors and coordinate pickup with Italian rescue crews. F-16’s were also tasked with escorting helicopters to protect them from air and ground threats. This is the first ever tasking of a full-time combat search and rescue mission for F-16’s from the 510th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dave Ahlschwede)

The fighter pilot training facility in Romania aims to position the country as a regional leader in F-16 pilot training. It also seeks to enhance cohesion, demonstrate unity, and strengthen the Euro-Atlantic deterrence and defense posture, according to a statement issued by the Romanian government.

The training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets signifies an important step in bolstering Ukraine’s defense capabilities against Russia’s ongoing invasion. As Ukraine’s allies come together to provide support and training, the hope is that these efforts will ultimately contribute to restoring stability and security in the region, while Ukraine continues to resist aggression and defend its sovereignty.