The UK has been providing basic training to Ukraine’s combat air pilots as a contribution to the international Air Force Capability Coalition for Ukraine.
News Release, Whitehall, 26 December 2023: The UK has been providing basic training to Ukraine’s combat air pilots as a contribution to the international Air Force Capability Coalition for Ukraine. The first cohort of Ukrainian pilots to receive training from the Royal Air Force are now learning to fly F-16 fighter jets in Denmark, having completed a basic programme of training in the UK.
The RAF began delivering flying and English language training in August as part of the UK contribution to the international Air Force Capability Coalition for Ukraine, which sees allies and partners working together to bolster Ukraine’s air capabilities. The group was formed of six experienced Ukrainian combat fighter pilots who received aviation-specific English language training to increase their ability to engage with coalition training and support. A further ten Ukrainian trainee pilots took part in the language training and remain in the UK to continue with practical basic flight training, as well as to learn important skills such as aviation medicine and centrifuge training.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am proud of the support the Royal Air Force is providing to the next generation of Ukraine’s combat air pilots and ground crew, who will be the first line of defence in protecting Ukraine’s skies.
“The UK has been instrumental in building Ukraine’s air defences since Putin launched his full-scale invasion, providing hundreds of missiles and munitions, as well as radar and weapons systems.
“While Ukraine was highly vulnerable to attack from Russian aircraft, drones, and missiles in the early months of the invasion – with support from the UK and our allies, its Armed Forces are now able to intercept and destroy the overwhelming majority of incoming ordnance – protecting their civilian population and vital infrastructure.
“Together we’re now going further by ensuring Ukraine has a modern air force in the future, formed around the highly capable fourth-generation F-16 fighter jet. Combined with training from the world-leading RAF, this is a significant step forward from Ukraine’s current Soviet-era capabilities.”
The programme is designed to give trainee pilots the skills required to advance to the next phase of training on fighter jets with partner nations and bring future Ukrainian pilots closer to a NATO standard approach to flying. Pilots undergoing the basic flight training scheme are conducting practical lessons in Grob Tutor aircraft with experienced RAF instructors, learning general handling procedures, instrument flying, medium and low-level navigation, and formation flying. Alongside the pilot training, dozens of Ukrainian aircraft technicians are also receiving English language training, geared towards engineering.
Defence Minister of Ukraine, Rustem Umerov, said: “Ukraine highly values the pilot training that the UK and other partners are providing, to help us prepare for operating F-16s in Ukraine.
“It is a rapid and effective programme to equip Ukrainian pilots with the skills they need in the war against Russia.”
Once they have completed their training with the RAF, pilots will be trained by another European nation on advanced flying training. This will prepare them for training on the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, overseen by Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United States, which lead the Air Force Capability Coalition.
The Prime Minister confirmed the UK’s intent to support the Air Force Capability Coalition earlier this year with basic training, as the UK does not operate the F-16 aircraft Ukraine has selected to develop its future air force around. The UK will continue this support to Ukrainian pilots and ground crew in 2024.
The trainees join more than 53,000 Ukrainians who have received training in the UK since Putin first ordered the invasion of Crimea in 2014. Last month, the Defence Secretary announced the UK will aim to train a further 10,000 Ukrainian recruits in the first half of 2024 as part of Operation INTERFLEX.
Beyond providing a broad range of training programmes, the UK continues to support Ukraine to push back Russian forces. As part of the £4.6bn worth of UK military support, we have provided long range missiles, western main battle tanks, and logistical support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.