The Royal Air Force began delivering flying and English language training in August. This initial cohort comprised six experienced Ukrainian combat fighter pilots, who underwent aviation-specific English language training to better engage with coalition training and support. Alongside them, ten Ukrainian trainee pilots participated in the language training and are continuing with practical basic flight training in the UK, also covering aviation medicine and centrifuge training.
UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps expressed pride in the RAF’s role in supporting Ukraine’s future air defence, highlighting the UK’s key role in building Ukraine’s air defences since Russia’s full-scale invasion. The training is part of a broader effort to modernize Ukraine’s air force capabilities, shifting from Soviet-era technology to the more advanced fourth-generation F-16 fighter jet.
The training program is structured to equip trainee pilots with skills required for advanced training on fighter jets with partner nations, aligning closer to NATO standards. Pilots in the basic flight training scheme are currently conducting practical lessons in Grob Tutor aircraft, learning various flying techniques under the guidance of experienced RAF instructors.
In addition to pilot training, dozens of Ukrainian aircraft technicians are receiving English language training focused on engineering. Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov underscored the value of this pilot training in equipping Ukrainian pilots with necessary skills for the ongoing war against Russia.
Following their training with the RAF, pilots will undergo advanced flying training with another European nation, preparing 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 UK, while not operating F-16 aircraft itself, confirmed its intent to support the coalition with basic training. In 2024, the UK will continue supporting Ukrainian pilots and ground crew. These trainees join over 53,000 Ukrainians trained in the UK since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014. The UK aims to train an additional 10,000 Ukrainian recruits in the first half of 2024 as part of Operation Interflex.
This support extends beyond training, with the UK providing £4.6bn worth of military support to Ukraine, including long-range missiles, western main battle tanks, and logistical support.