What are Ukrainian pilots being trained to do in the US? – expert view

8 March, 01:58 PM
According to Oleg Katkov, Ukrainian pilots can be introduced to Western systems that increase the efficiency of Soviet aircraft at an airbase in the USA (Photo:Alamy via Reuters)

According to Oleg Katkov, Ukrainian pilots can be introduced to Western systems that increase the efficiency of Soviet aircraft at an airbase in the USA (Photo:Alamy via Reuters)

After it was confirmed that the Ukrainian pilots had arrived at a U.S. military base in Tucson, Arizona, Oleh Katkov, editor-in-chief of the Defense Express military news site, shared his thoughts with NV on what the goals of the Ukrainian fliers’ training might be.

Katkov believes that the pilots are being trained at the Davis-Monthan air base, home to the U.S. Air National Guard Reserve’s Command Test Centre.

“This is a very well-known air base in the U.S., and it is quite unique,” said Katkov.

“It is involved in the modernization of the aircraft fleet of the U.S. National Guard, which has a much smaller (technical and financial) resource than the U.S. Air Force,” he said.

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“Only pragmatic modernization allows the Command Test Center to maintain the National Guard’s aging aircraft fleet at a high level. “That is, to be as efficient as possible with minimal funds,” the expert notes.

This suggests that it is likely that the United States is attempting to find ways to modernize the Soviet MiG-29, Su-27, or Su-24M planes used by the Ukrainian Air Force, in addition to the already announced training of Ukrainian pilots, Katkov believes.

“Ukrainian pilots arrived there (Tucson air base) to master new (Western) systems that can increase the efficiency of (Soviet) aircraft,” Katkov said, adding that this may be one of the goals of training Ukrainian pilots.

It is a pragmatic approach that allows Ukraine and its partners to bypass the political hesitation of Western allies to provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine and to overcome the six-month wait to train Ukrainian pilots and aviation engineers on new Western aircraft.

Katkov explained that the value of Western fighter jets lies not so much in the airframe of the aircraft, but in its weapons and tech systems, such as sighting and radar.

“There are quite complicated ways to adapt even Soviet machines to Western weapons,” said the expert.

Given that Ukrainian military engineers, with the help of Western specialists, managed to integrate the U.S. AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missile under the wing of the Soviet MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters last summer, their ability to make additional adaptations is plausible.

Katkov believes that Western systems that could improve the efficiency of Soviet fighters could include Litening and other advanced precision targeting systems.

“Speaking abstractly, if you install a series of systems from Western fighters on an Su-27 or MiG-29,” he said, “then it is actually a 4+ generation aircraft that can fight against the Russian aviation and (there is a) certain way to change the situation both on air and on the ground."

Earlier it was reported that two Ukrainian pilots arrived in Arizona to train on flight simulators and test their skills to determine how long it will take to train Ukrainian pilots to fly Western aircraft, particularly F-16 fighter jets.

Ten more Ukrainian Air Force pilots are expected to arrive this month.

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