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Ukrainian pilots fluent in English must undergo four months of English lessons

Fighter pilots from Ukraine will participate in training for US-made F-16s, including four months of English lessons in the UK to learn correct terminology.

President Biden has backed plans to provide F-16s to Ukraine after more than a year of requests from Kyiv. The decision, announced in May, means transfer of the jets to Ukraine, with Denmark and the Netherlands to lead the training efforts. Initial plans aimed to have the jets in the air by September.

However, part of the training includes four months in the UK to learn correct terminology; this is despite pilots who are already fluent in English. Further training will take six months, meaning the four-month stint in the UK is likely to push back use of the jets to summer next year.

According to US officials, only eight of the 32 pilots who took English proficiency exams were dubbed as having adequate language skills. Aviation chief for Ukraine’s air-force, Brig. Gen. Serhii Holubstov, has said Ukrainian pilots have been taking online English classes for the past year. He believes because pilots already have a high level of English, learning the terminology ‘will not take much time.’

The UK will provide ground training and elementary flight training to lay the groundwork for specialised training by Dutch and Danish governments.

Combat training for experienced pilots is forecast to take six months. However, allies have suggested a different track for novices that would require more than two years of training, including English lessons. Speaking to the Washington Post, Lt. Col. Mark van de Beek, of the Dutch Ministry of Defence, has said a shortage of F-16 trainers in Europe is another challenge:

‘To train a fighter pilot you also need fighter pilots. That is expensive and a capability that smaller countries don’t have much anymore.’

At a NATO summit in July, officials proposed training to start this month. However, so far, training has yet to start as plans continue to be finalised.

Image courtesy of Chandler Cruttenden
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