Ukrainian Air Force Pilots are in Tucson now, training to fly F-16 fighters. Ukrainians will train with an Arizona Air National Guard unit especially skilled at training foreign pilots.
At Tucson International Airport, F-16s share the runways with civilian air traffic because the Morris Air National Guard Base is on the edge of the airport.
The 162nd Wing there has a long standing specialty of training foreign pilots on US made fighter jets.
The 162nd Wing has flown with all but one country that flies the F-16.
Retired Two Star General Ted Maxwell leads the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. But before that he was a leader in the 162nd with 19 years as an instructor pilot.
The Pentagon confirms Ukrainian pilots are in Tucson now to learn to fly the F-16.
The pilots will come in with flying experience but its with designs that may date back to the breakup of the Soviet Union. Those planes are less capable than the newer planes the Russians fly now, so the Ukrainians are eager to receive the F-16s. They will replace planes lost in the war and be a better match for the Russian warplanes.
Even with flying experience, flying an unfamiliar fighter is a challenge. Its a special challenge when you are learning in a language you may not know all that well.
General Maxwell says you might be able to communicate in a briefing on the ground, but it can be another story in the cockpit.
When you’re trying to do it at 400 miles an hour or faster or slower in some cases, and you’re trying to instruct from the back seat, on the fly, while things are happening, especially if it’s somebody whose English skills aren’t strong, it can be pretty challenging.
He says it helps that the Air Force gives the foreign pilots English training before they arrive and they can get more language training if they need it. He says it also helps that the Air National Guard pilots of the 162nd may have 20 years of focused experience as flying instructors while pilots in the regular Air Force may change assignments every three or four years.