Ukraine says pilots would need six months for F-16 combat training
KYIV, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Friday it would take its pilots about half a year to train for combat in Western fighter jets such as U.S. F-16s, as Kyiv steps up its campaign to secure fourth-generation warplanes in the wake of Russia's invasion last February.
Ukraine got a huge boost this week when Germany and the United States announced plans to provide heavy tanks to Kyiv, which is now hoping the West will also provide long-range missiles and fighter jets.
Western military support has been vital for Kyiv and has rapidly evolved. Before the invasion, even the idea of supplying lethal aid to Ukraine was highly controversial, but Western supplies have since shattered taboo after taboo.
Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat said F-16s may be the best option for a multi-role fighter to replace the country's current fleet of warplanes, which are older than modern Ukraine itself. He said Kyiv was using four types of Soviet-era planes.
"The pilots are saying it is not a problem to fly the F-16, they could learn it within several weeks. To fight with these planes is a very different thing, to use all types of weapons,” Ihnat told a news briefing.
"Pilots say they could master it in about half a year," he said.
Ukraine uses its warplanes for intercept missions and to attack Russian positions.
In the United States, Deputy White House national security adviser Jon Finer told MSNBC on Thursday that the United States would be discussing the idea of supplying fighter jets "very carefully" with Kyiv and its allies.
Ihnat said in addition to the pilots, aviation engineers and other specialists would need training. Ukraine has already started work in different regions to create airfield infrastructure for Western planes, he said.
Oleksiy Danylov, the secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, posted a video on Twitter of a Western fighter jet taking off and wrote "Soon in Ukraine".
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