Western allies have trained Ukrainian pilots to fly U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets for months, but were cautious to specify whether they were learning in classrooms or actually maneuvered the real steering wheel.
A report citing a spokesman at Ukraine’s air force now claims the pilots have completed the simulation courses and boarded the planes for in-flight training.
Yuriy Ignat, speaking on behalf of the Ukrainian Air Force, said in a television broadcast: "Some pilots are already undergoing air training with an instructor on combat aircraft."
Two groups of Ukrainian pilots and technical personnel are currently training to fly F-16s – one in the United States and another, larger, in Romania.
This progress means that President Volodimir Zelenski, who complains of Russian superiority in the air, is closer to receive the American aircraft which Kyiv has been asking from NATO during the past 12 months. Ukraine admits that its Soviet-era MiG-31 and Su-27 are outmatched by newer Russian jets.
Russia uses now more technologically advanced jets of same manufacturers, like the MiG-31 and Su-25, which can outmaneuver Ukrainian planes using advanced equipment.
The Ukrainian offensive in the east has stalled as Russia not just continues to control the airspace, but has also planted mines on large sways of Ukrainian territory, effectively blocking the advance of enemy troops.
Kyiv hopes that a modest fleet of F-16, believed to be better than Russian counterparts, along with around 100 of Western tanks, will give Ukraine a competition edge and will change the situation on the frontlines.
According to BusinessInsider, another reason Ukraine needs modern F-16 is because it's getting difficult to repair the current fleet of fighter jets in its arsenal, given that most of spare parts are made in Russia.
The U.S. Defense Department has not commented on the news.
It's rare to see someone donating to support a science blog [PayPal: @newscafeeu / IBAN - RO50BTRLEURCRT0490900501, Swift - BTRLRO22, Beneficiary - Rudeana SRL]. If you do so - thank you dear reader. Otherwise you may click on ad banners on our website. Any help makes us hopeful.