Ukrainian pilots will train on French Alpha Jets

Avatar photo

A recent intervention by the commander of the American Air Force in Europe and Africa confirms that the training cycle for Ukrainian pilots will indeed pass through France. After a brief stint on propeller planes, their advanced training phase will be carried out in France on the Alfa Jets of the Air and Space Force. Once trained, they will finally be able to train on the F-16 fighter planes, but it will be necessary to wait until 2024 to see the F-16s fly in Ukraine.

A slight setback in language

On August 18, General James Hecker, in charge of the American Air Force stationed in Europe and Africa, gave more information on the training of Ukrainian pilots. It confirmed the article of Politico, published on August 4: this article claimed that of the 32 Ukrainian pilots selected to be trained to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon, only eight will be able to start their training. The other pilots must first complete training in the United Kingdom in order to perfect their English. It should be noted that the 20 other pilots already have notions/already speak English but their level is not high enough. This training will therefore be fast because it does not have to start from scratch.

A passage on the French Alfa Jets

General Hecker continues his intervention (Air&Spaces Forces Magazine):

Then they’ll practice a bit on propeller planes, and then go down in France and fly on the Alfa Jet.”

The Air and Space Force will therefore put Alfa Jets and instructors at the service of the Ukrainian Air Force by training their pilots to fly on advanced training aircraft. Once their training on Alfa Jet is complete, they can then switch to the long-awaited F-16s. Their Fighting Falcon training location should begin temporarily in Denmark, pending the establishment of a permanent training center in Romania (Reuters).

However, as stated in a previous post and also confirmed in General Hecker’s recent intervention, the F-16s will not fly in Ukraine right away because the training will last several months and will not end before the beginning of 2024:

All of this is going to take time, and it probably won’t happen before the end of the year. (…) This is why you won’t see F-16s in Ukraine until next year.”

A retired plane… or almost!

Since December 1978, the Alfa Jet, a two-seat training aircraft, served in the Air and Space Force as an advanced training aircraft for future French pilots. This page of history saw its last line written on March 16, 2023 on the air base 120 of Cazaux (Gironde, France): the last six student-pilots received their macaroon, thus becoming the last promotion to have trained on Alfa Jet. The AAE has decided to replace these training aircraft with much more modern Pilatus PC-21s.

There are a few exceptions, including the well-known Patrouille de France. Apart from the Alfa Jets which will be used for training Ukrainian pilots, the Patrouille de France should be the only unit of the AAE to fly only on Alfa Jets… until their replacement scheduled for 2030.

John Walker Avatar