The move was confirmed by Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh on Thursday in a press conference in which she said, “Training has started for several pilots. The English language training will vary depending on proficiency and skill.”
The commander of US Air Forces in Europe James B. Hecker reported that there would be “somewhere up to about 10 pilots” plus maintainers while Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder has reported dozens of maintainers will be training in the US.
Singh said that several pilots had arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas as of Thursday and maintainers are expected to arrive soon for English language training. She could not disclose when the group would transition to Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona. The 162nd Wing is considered America’s primary foreign F-16 pilot school.
When asked about the impending government shutdown she said, “Civilian personnel that are involved in the training of Ukrainian pilots, such as English language training is what we’re talking about right now, absolutely there could be impacts to training. We’re still reviewing some of these details.”
She continued, “A shutdown is literally the worst-case scenario for this department. We really don’t want to have to go through making painful decisions like this.”
In the event of a government shutdown, the Ukrainian pilot training would be somewhat disrupted, Singh said, as most DOD staffers at bases would not report to work. Active-duty airmen will still work as certain military functions are “expected.”
While the F-16 pilot portion of training in Arizona was scheduled to begin in October, the government shutdown may force a delay. The Air National Guard, which oversees the 162nd Wing, is treated more so as a “civilian workforce” than an Active-Duty unit during a shutdown, DOD guidance reveals.
Singh concluded, “It’s definitely going have an impact to training whatever that might be. Whether it’s actual personnel in the room or if this continues to go longer … training could be delayed for other aspects of pilot training.”