Ukrainian Pilots At Tucson Guard F-16 Wing For ‘Assessment’


Multiple sources are reporting that two Ukrainian air force pilots are in the U.S. flying F-16 simulators as part of an “assessment” of their skills. The outlets, all quoting unnamed sources, say the two Ukrainians have been at an Air National Guard unit in Tucson, Arizona, for a week and will be there for at least another week. The 162nd Fighter Wing operates 70 F-16s but the pilots will not be going flying. All the assessment is happening on the sims to evaluate their “flying and mission planning capabilities,” according to Politico.

The U.S. has supplied weapons and ad hoc control systems to adapt them to the Soviet-era fighters Ukraine now flies and part of the Tucson effort is to evaluate how that’s working. “The program involves watching how Ukrainian pilots conduct their mission planning and execution in flight simulators in order to determine how we can better advise the Ukrainian Air Force,” a U.S. official who was granted anonymity told Politico. Ukraine has repeatedly asked for western fighters in its constant lobbying of Western countries for military aid in its battle against Russia. The F-16 is the platform of choice but the U.S. has so far denied the request. U.S. officials insist they won’t be sending any F-16s to Ukraine anytime soon.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. More than 20 nations operate F-16s. “U.S. officials insist they won’t be sending any F-16s to Ukraine anytime soon.” Maybe the question to ask is – Who will?

    • Any country operating F-16’s would need to get US permission to move them from their inventory.

      And handing over aircraft, especially high performance aircraft, takes a hell of a lot more than passing the “keys” over.

      Training, logistics, infrastructure, spare parts, fuel, oil… the list is HUGE. So stop with the quick fix attitudes already.

  2. We should have pushed Poland to sell their SU27s to Ukraine. Giving them our F16s which is going to happen is just escalating this war which is swiftly becoming a proxy war between us and Russia, soon to be China. It’s going to escalate into something more and out people are going to end up dying.

    • Was that the position Yours compatriots and even the then government share in WWII, even before the attack to Pearl Harbor? Poor generation, the actual one!

  3. Our foreign defense posture has been, we fight them there or we fight them here. I believe that’s what I heard on my way to Vietnam. I believe Mr. Chamberlain shared appeasement sentiment dealing with Hitler and you may recall how that worked out.

    • Some people are immune to history’s lessons. It’s not like Russia’s aggression just sprang up overnight like dandelions; the Russian encroachment into Ukraine followed the same playbook as previous incursions into Moldova (Transnistria) and Georgia (Ossetia). In 1991 every oblast in Ukraine, including the ones now under Russian occupation, voted for independence. I find the attitude of “freedom and independence for me but not for thee” among Americans to be quite hypocritical. The cost of the aid we’re supplying to Ukraine is virtually a rounding error compared to the huge sums our government spends on frivolous and dubious projects.

    • Moldova. The conqueror always needs new lands to conqueror. The conqueror is always a man of peace – he prefers to marches in unopposed.

    • Neocon Warmongers mystify me just as much. I have five good reasons that the US needs to steer clear of Ukraine: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the corrupt Biden family money laundering scam in Ukraine.

  4. President Zelenskyy of Ukraine is Jewish and members of his family were executed by Nazis in WWII.

    To say tha he or his administration has any Nazi sympathies is totally insane.

    Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy was born to Jewish parents on 25 January 1978 in Kryvyi Rih, then in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. His father, Oleksandr Zelenskyy, is a professor and computer scientist and the head of the Department of Cybernetics and Computing Hardware at the Kryvyi Rih State University of Economics and Technology; his mother, Rymma Zelenska, used to work as an engineer. His grandfather, Semyon (Simon) Ivanovych Zelenskyy, served as an infantryman, reaching the rank of colonel in the Red Army (in the 57th Guards Motor Rifle Division) during World War II. Semyon’s father and three brothers were killed in the Holocaust. In March 2022, Zelenskyy said that his great-grandparents had been killed after German troops burned their home to the ground during a massacre.

  5. Some stories are inherently political in nature and this is one of them. Just be factual and truthful and your comments will be fine. It’s when commenters go off track with political diatribes that have nothing to do with the topic that I hit the button.

    • Maybe AvWeb should investigate sources for such articles and comments before printing since there is so much “fake news” and comments these days. Now not only do we have to be wary of troll propaganda but now it is coming from computer generated software not just folks trying to influence national and international politics and policies. Beware of everything you see and hear now days.

  6. From what we have seen so far, the aerial theater in and around Ukraine is highly dangerous to essentially anything flying due to the plethora of manpads and S 300, S 400, and maybe S 500 AA missiles being used, some on both sides. What makes anyone think that F 16s would be much less vulnerable. Nearly the same vulnerability argument against A 10s would be in effect for F 16s. Unmanned cruise missiles, lots of cruise missiles are what are needed. Shoot some down – so what as compared with a fighter jet and pilot.

    • While Russia has lots of S 300s and more, I doubt they’re more skilled at these weapons’ employment than they’ve shown with other weapons so far (see for example, tanks). In any case, aircraft can be and are equipped with jamming pods and flares, and the US has already sent a shipment of High Speed Anti-Radar Missiles (HARM) to Ukraine. There are no sanctuaries, and nothing in war is low-risk. But these aircraft would make a difference.

    • Does that mean the only time air assets will be used are over areas that are normally defended by folks riding camels or Toyota pickups mounted with a .50 Cal ?

      As for waste of money, I agree, the human race simply hasn’t figured out in this day and age how to get along. However, I suspect the WW2 effort was worth the money since it ended up the good guys winning and the rest of us learning English as our second language.

  7. With you Jack W:

    Evidence of Russia’s War Crimes and Other Atrocities in Ukraine: Recent Reporting on Child Relocations
    FEBRUARY 14, 2023