One of America’s deadliest F-16 pilots said he was ready to fight for Ukraine if it was necessary according to a recent interview he gave with Voice of America.
“I’ll even go myself, you can count on me,” retired Lieutenant Colonel Dan “Two Dogs” Hampton told Voice of America while discussing how the F-16 could change the war in Ukraine.
“I would say the F-16 could make a huge difference in the war, but it also depends on the pilots,” Hampton told Voice of America’s Maria Prus.
The retired lieutenant colonel isn’t against having Ukrainian pilots fly the F-16 in the skies over the battlefield, but he does worry about their ability to adapt to the modern fighter. “They’re great pilots,” Hampton explained to Prus, “but this is a very different type of modern fighter than they are used to. And they would be the first to admit [it].”
“I think it takes some time to train and get used to and master a new type of aircraft, especially one as advanced as the F-16,” Hampton added.
High-level discussions about sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine have been ongoing for months as the United States and its allies try to walk the thin line of providing the weapons to Kyiv in order to ensure they make the best use of their available resources.
In January, President Joe Biden signaled that he was not willing to send the advanced fighter jets to Ukraine. After reporters pushed him on the question of whether or not he would provide his Ukrainian allies with the jets, Biden simply said, “No.”
Biden’s thoughts on sending F-16 fighters to Ukraine aren’t shared by everyone in the American government and in mid-March, a bipartisan group of eight senators pushed the issue.
“After speaking with U.S., Ukrainian, and foreign leaders working to support Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference last month, we believe the U.S. needs to take a hard look at providing F-16 aircraft to Ukraine,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden.
“This would be a significant capability that could prove to be a game changer on the battlefield,” the senators added, as quoted by Politico.
In February, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak diverged from United States policy when he offered to train Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard fighter jets, which will be critical if Western nations eventually choose to send F-16 jets to Ukraine.
Ukrainian pilots only received on average 40-50 hours of training in their cockpits according to Dan Hampton, who said U.S. fighter pilots spend three-hundred hours a year just simulation training, excluding combat training, multi-national exercises, NATO deployment and flying actual aircraft a pilot is trained on.
“We become very good at what we do,” Hampton said, adding, “I think that in order for the F-16 or any modern fighter to matter to the Ukrainian Air Force, they will have to throw away the old Soviet or Russian way of doing things.” Ukraine would need to adopt American strategy to be successful, Hampton said.
The key to success for Ukrainian pilots if they’re supplied with F-16s according to Hampton will be to “act like NATO and the West and the United States do if they want to use our aircraft effectively.”
Maintaining the F-16 is another issue that worries Hampton. “I’m not saying it’s everything,” the American pilot explained, “but it’s very important when it comes to maintaining an aircraft in a combat environment as opposed to a peacetime environment.”
Ultimately, Hampton believes the F-16’s combat capabilities could change the air war in Ukraine and he said he was willing to fly the jet himself if it became a necessity.
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