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January 31, 2023
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Airforcemag: Romania Is a Model for Training Ukraine’s Pilots to Fly F-16s

NATO member Romania is a model for training Ukraine’s pilots to transition from MiG-21 to F-16.

The Ukrainian Air Force has withstood six months of war against a much larger and more capable Russian force. Still, there are concerns that Ukrainian pilots aren’t given the tools and training they need to fly contemporary Western aircraft like the F-16, Russia may gain air superiority as the war drags on.

According to Airforcemag, Romania offers a case study for how that could go. Its air force is completing a transition from Soviet-era MiG-21s to U.S.-built F-16s, providing a model for training pilots for the switch. The U.S. Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command even has a course for partner and ally nation pilots that could be tailored for Ukraine.

Eastern European pilots from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia have been enrolling in the six-month ANG International Initial Qualification Course (Advanced) at Morris Air National Guard Base, Arizona, for over two decades. The MiGs are being phased out of the Romanian Air Force as it looks to increase its F-16 fleet and eventually purchase F-35s.

One of two Romanian pilots now undergoing basic combat flight training in Arizona is Capt. Alexandru Beraczko of the Romanian Air Force. At Lackland and Randolph Air Force Bases in Texas, Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi, and Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, he had previously engaged in U.S. Air Force programs.

Getting [to] the F-16 from the MiG-29—it’s a way different airframe. The heads-up display, even the missiles they are running, they have different cool times, different intelligence. Bear in mind they need to apply different tactics. Air tactics are different.

Capt. Alexandru Beraczko, Romanian Air Force

Shortly after gaining independence in 1994, Romania joined the NATO Partnership for Peace and became a full member of the alliance ten years later. Every action represented a change toward the Western style of warfare.

Romania has been preparing to switch to the F-16 for almost ten years, building the necessary infrastructure, training pilots and maintainers, and maintaining a boneyard of spare aircraft.

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