Ukrainian Air Force Comes to Fresno

November 6, 2009 11:52:05 PM PST
Planes from The California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing and the Arizona Air Guard are taking pilots from the Ukrainian Air Force, over Fresno. The F-16's they fly are similar to Ukraine's Russian made fighters.Lt. Col. Rob Swertfager of the California Air Guard has been taking part in exchanges with the Ukrainians for several years. "The Ukrainians use fourth generation aircraft, they are very capable." He said.

The Ukrainians aren't here to learn aerial combat, but to modernize. Their planes and tactics were leftover from the former Soviet Union.

Lt. Gen. Serihy Onyschenko the Deputy Chief of Ukraine's Air Force said through a translator that his country's military is eager to embrace Western technology and techniques. "Ukraine is an independent state; the system established during the Soviet times, this system has been changed." He said.

This exchange effort is aimed at getting the Ukraine ready to integrate with US and European military forces. Maj. Gen. Dennis Lucas, the Commander of the California Air National Guard says integration with the West is the goal. "So they can successfully, hopefully one day be part of NATO." He said.

In addition to riding along in F-16s the Ukrainian pilots have been training on flight simulators. The Ukrainian Air Force Delegation will be in town through the weekend.



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