Ukrainian pilot who led push for F-16s dies in coaching train

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Considered one of Ukraine’s most well-known fighter pilots who performed a outstanding public function in pushing western allies to offer Kyiv with F-16 fighter jets has died in a coaching train.

The aviator, publicly identified by his name signal “Juice”, was killed on Friday in a crash which additionally claimed the lives of two different pilots, Ukrainian authorities stated.

His loss of life got here simply days after the Biden administration dropped its longstanding reservations and accepted the transfer of dozens of the US-made multipurpose fighters from the Netherlands and Denmark.

Norway has since additionally pledged a few of its F-16s and different international locations together with the US, Poland and Romania are to assist practice Ukrainian pilots to fly them.

Juice was among the many fighters who defended Ukraine’s skies within the early weeks of Russia’s full-scale invasion final 12 months and had hoped to be amongst these skilled to fly F-16s.

“We’re unhappy to announce that on August 25, 2023, a horrible aircraft crash occurred . . . the crews of two L-39 coaching and fight plane collided within the sky,” Ukraine’s air drive stated in an announcement on Saturday.

“Among the many lifeless is a well known pilot of the fortieth Tactical Aviation Brigade with the decision signal Juice,” the air drive stated. “It is a painful and irreparable loss for all of us.”

In his each day deal with to the nation, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy recognized Juice as Andriy Pilschykov.

“He’s a kind of who a lot helped our nation,” he stated. “Ukraine will always remember everybody who protected the free skies of Ukraine.”

Juice was an everyday interviewee for a lot of media retailers. He defined how Ukrainian pilots — flying an ageing fleet of Soviet plane — prevented Russia’s a lot bigger and extra superior forces from attaining air superiority.

They undertook missions to intercept incoming Russian missiles and drones focusing on cities and infrastructure in addition to navy targets.

Juice, who was fluent in English and a local of the japanese Kharkiv area, argued for F-16s to offer cowl for Ukraine’s floor troops in opposition to Russian fighter jets’ longer-range radar and missile techniques.

“Juice was the driving drive behind the F-16 advocacy from day one — now we have to recognise and immortalise his legacy,” stated Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister, who labored on the initiative carefully with pilots and officers.

“He was a particularly good man . . . so cherished by so many,” Sak added.

In a Fb publish, Pavlo Potseluiev who knew Juice wrote: “You dreamt of F-16s and waited for information about their switch. You liked your chicken and actually lived within the sky.”

Juice, who flew a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet, was considered one of Ukraine’s youthful breed of pilots who obtained western coaching within the years after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014.

In an interview earlier this 12 months he informed the FT that he was given the nickname which grew to become his name signal by US pilots throughout a joint coaching train, as a result of he drank fruit juice somewhat than alcoholic drinks once they have been at a bar collectively.

Just lately, he had turn out to be annoyed at how lengthy it was taking for western allies to offer superior navy jets to Ukraine.

“If we wait six months extra, we’ll get to the second once we can have solely reservist grandpas, not younger pilots with good information, good coaching,” he informed the FT in February.

However he responded positively when it was introduced that the US had lastly accepted a request to ship the primary batch of F-16s to Ukraine.

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