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Senior California Air National Guard official sets record when it comes to ability of Ukrainian fighter pilots defying expectations in the skies against Russian sorties by telling Fox News they are “100 percent” capable of flying fourth-generation combat aircraft.
“The Ukrainian Air Force has a flight corps to control such modern aircraft,” the colonel said. Rob Swertfager said. “Ukrainian pilots are simply fantastic. I have flown with all the air forces in Europe, especially with their regional partners.”
“Ukrainians are so underrated and underestimated. That is why I think they are winning the war, because everyone underestimates that they are much better than anyone thought, ”he added.
Washington responded to the deadly bombardment of Ukraine by Russian airstrikes and heavy artillery by sending billions of dollars worth of equipment to the former Soviet-turned-Democratic state, but the Pentagon has all but shut the door on sending combat aircraft.
The leaders of the world’s most advanced military forces have cited concerns about Ukraine’s capabilities and the threat of an escalation in hostilities as the main reasons why they rejected Kyiv’s repeated requests for advanced combat aircraft such as the F-16, F-15 or A-10.
However, the best fighter pilots are taking the politics of war into their own hands, and for the California Air National Guard, that means informing American leaders that Ukrainian pilots are more than capable of flying fourth-generation aircraft.
California Air National Guard has a long-standing partnership with Ukraine and has been helping to train its military under a government program since the 1990s.
Swertfager, who has traveled to Ukraine more than 70 times over the past 20 years, has a personal relationship with the Ukrainian air force and told Fox News that he has been in daily contact with his fellow pilots since the war began in February.
“I am the task force commander of the California F-15 unit. One of my duties is to test and evaluate the ability to fly combat aircraft. My professional assessment, and I shared it with lawmakers this (last) week, These guys are more than capable of flying our planes 100 percent,” he said.
A trilateral deal to send American F-16s to Poland in exchange for their deployment of Soviet MiG-29s in Ukraine was canceled by Washington in March.
Pentagon officials signal fears that Moscow will negatively perceive this step as a direct participation of NATO in the conflict and may lead to an escalation of the war beyond the borders of Ukraine.
However, some have begun to question the administration’s reasoning as US and NATO allies continue to send advanced weaponry such as howitzers, javelins and Stinger missiles. The US Air Force even created Drone “Ghost of the Phoenix” specially designed for the needs of Ukraine in its war against Russia.
“These are political decisions made by the civilian leadership of the Pentagon, as well as other parts of the Biden administration, which somehow consider some platforms provocative and others not,” he said. Republican Senator from Alaska. Dan Sullivan. “I just don’t really agree with that assessment.
“We send Stinger and Javelin missiles, they destroy helicopters, they kill tank commanders. And then we send heavy artillery,” he continued. “What’s the line between letting them get defensive and something offensive and provocative?”
Last week, Sullivan held a bipartisan meeting with two Ukrainian fighter pilots who arrived from the front lines in Washington to present to US lawmakers their urgent need for modern aircraft.
“The Russian Air Force is still very active in eastern and southern Ukraine,” one fighter pilot, who goes by the callsign “Juice,” told Fox News.
“Of course, they are not as stupid as in the first weeks [of the war] and they have changed tactics, but they are still deadly,” he said, referring to the area bombing of Russia. “They send their attack aircraft and helicopters at low altitudes across the front line to attack our combat fighters in the trenches. .
“We need to react, we need to intercept them. We need to save the lives of our citizens and ground forces,” he added.
Juice, who was given a call sign while training with the California Air National Guard in 2018 after repeatedly ordering juice instead of alcohol when out with his American comrades, said Ukrainian pilots could be trained on modern American aircraft in three to six years. monthly period.
When asked about this relatively short training period, Swertfager supported the suggestion and said that his rough estimate was that a four-month training program would be sufficient.
“I flew with these guys many, many times. And they are professional pilots,” he said. “They come from Soviet doctrine, which is very different from ours, but they have adapted as a hybrid in their capabilities.”
Swertfager said the Ukrainian air force has not fully integrated Western or NATO capabilities into its fighting force and has not exclusively retained the methods of the former Soviet era.
“They are somewhere in between. And here, I think, they get a big advantage when they fight the Russians, ”he added. “They could, if they had the opportunity, succeed.”