A decorated former US F-16 pilot says he would fly fighter jets for Ukraine: ‘You can count on me,’ he told a VoA interview.

Mar 18, 2023

Photograph of former US Air Force pilot Dan Hampton. 
Dan Hampton Facebook page
  • A decorated former US Air Force pilot said he would fly fighter jets for Ukraine if necessary.
  • Retired Lt. Col. Dan “Two Dogs” Hampton discussed the potential of the US F-16 in the war over Ukraine.
  • “I’ll even go myself, you can count on me,”  the retired lieutenant colonel told a VoA interview.

Dan Hampton, a retired lieutenant colonel known as the US Air Force’s “deadliest F-16 pilot,” said he was ready to fly planes for the Ukraine military himself if necessary in an interview with Voices of America.

The highly decorated pilot, known as “Two Dogs,” spent 20 years in the Air Force, fought in the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, and Iraq wars, and is a New York Times bestselling author for his memoirs from his time in the military. 

Speaking from a base in Arizona, Hampton discussed his thoughts in the long-form interview on training F-16 pilots to fight in the Ukraine war, the advantages of using the jets, and whether the Ukraine government should hire private pilots as the war continues into its second year. 

The F-16, a US single-seat fighter jet, is in the news after President Joe Biden recently said he would not supply the planes to Ukraine for the time being. Both Democratic and Republican Senators, however, have pushed the Pentagon to send the jets that “could prove to be a game changer on the battlefield,” per Politico

Earlier this week, Poland became the first NATO country to confirm it would send MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine.

“No one has ever won a war from the air,” Hampton asserted, “You can’t win a war from the air, but you can lose a war if you don’t control the airspace,” he told VoA, which the US government helps fund. 

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft
A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft 

Hampton told the interviewer the Ukrainian government could hire private contractors who already know how to fly F-16s, which “buys you time” and “helps you win the war.”

“I’ll even go myself. You can count on me,” Hampton said.

Retired Lt. Col. Hampton, 58, flew 151 sorties in his distinguished career between 1986-2006. He is the most decorated flyer since the Vietnam War, according to VoA, winning the Purple Heart, four Distinguished Flying Crosses for extraordinary heroism, and eight ” Air Medals” of the US Air Force for valor during combat operations in the air.

The retired lieutenant colonel reiterated his commitment to the Ukrainian cause after explaining he thought it would be faster to send pilots who know how to fly rather than “sending Ukrainian pilots to the US and sending them to a training program.” 

Russia’s Su-35 fighter is “junk,” says the former pilot

Two Ukrainian pilots were recently sent to Arizona, according to NBC News, for US authorities to determine how long it would take to train them to fly the jets, as well as to improve their skills. 

Calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “black and white” issue of “good versus evil,” Hampton said he hoped that “governments that can provide these services should.”

“I will even go myself,” he repeated, “I will be number one. You can count on me.”

The smoking debris of a Russian Su-35 fighter jet that crashed in a field in Ukraine.
A Russian Su-35 downed by Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region, April 3, 2022. 

Hampton also compared F-16 planes – a multirole fighter that can attack air-to-ground and air-to-air –  to the Russian Su-35 jets, saying the Russian model being used in the war “looks good at air shows” but that they are, in his opinion, “junk.”

Meanwhile, a US Air Force official said that fighter jets were “worthless” over Ukraine earlier this week because both sides of the conflict have mastered long-range missile defense, Insider previously reported.


  1. “Hampton told the interviewer the Ukrainian government could hire private contractors who already know how to fly F-16s, which “buys you time” and “helps you win the war.”

    That’s a grand idea! And, I think Ukraine could buy a few F-16s, if nobody wants to hand them over.

    Speaking of which…

    “Calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “black and white” issue of “good versus evil,” Hampton said he hoped that “governments that can provide these services should.”

    The dickless pansies are still refusing to send jets to Ukraine.

    “‘I’ll even go myself. You can count on me,’ Hampton said.”

    Way to go. Maybe he’s on to something. Maybe others will also step forward and do what their infantry comrades have been doing since the start of this war; fight for Ukraine.

    • I have watched a video from Ryan McBeth on maintenance of F-16’s and it is much more complicated than I could ever imagine.

      Also, the machine is very delicate and breaks often.

      After I have seen it, I do indeed question if it is really the most efficient way of supporting Ukraine, as 4 F-16’s require hundreds of maintenance personnel, and for each hour of flight it takes 19 hours of maintenance.

      Ukraine may need even more, as they have no experience with the platform, have no spare parts.

      Also, it requires air strips to be rebuilt, as the the engines really don’t like tiny stones, birds and other things that don’t belong there.

      Both Ukraine and Russia do not often use fighter jets for CAS missions these days, as both countries have an extensive network of air defense. SU-25’s, which are the Soviet equivalent of the A-10, are seeing less usage than before.

      I think the Ukrainians currently do this with drones and artillery such as HIMARS, that are much harder to shoot down than MIGs, Sukhois or F-16’s.

      I think the only thing Ukraine currently needs fighter jets for is destroying enemy air defense (with anti-radiation missiles) and making sure no Russian aircraft can enter Ukrainian air space.

      When MIGs can carry Western missiles such as HARM missiles and long range anti-air missiles, they can perform any task the Ukrainians would use F-16’s for.

      And as they are more rugged, simple, and the Ukrainian NCO’s know how to work with them, they probably have much higher availability rates than F-16’s and no air fields have to be modified to use them.

      Another disadvantage of F-16’s that damaging air strips will ground them until the damage is repaired.

      This doesn’t mean I don’t support Ukraine preparing to switch to Western jets, as Russia will always remain a threat, even after the war is over, but I think I understand why the U.S. focusses on MIGs now as 1) they are now proven to be capable of launching Western missiles 2) they are available immediately so they can also be used during the spring offensive

      Also, I don’t think Ukraine cannot maintain F-16’s, but it requires to train hundreds or even thousands of mechanic that they need now!

      Maybe there was discussion on F-16’s over the last months, but the U.S. may have changed its mind after they succeeded to use the MIG-29 and SU-27 as launch platforms for Western missiles, as this took away the immediate need.

      Republican control over the House may also be a reason, as the current aid package may be depleted before the new fiscal year when F-16’s will be acquired.

      • I take note of your arguments, Bert. However, I have one question; why do the Ukrainians want them so badly? I’m certain that they know precisely the pros and cons, maybe better than any of us, yet they still want F-16s. Why?

        • I don’t know all of them, but I think I do know some.
          Probably the main reason is age: the youngest in service are from 1991.

          In the long run, you don’t want to invest resources in such an old platform for which you cannot get spare parts and missiles, as most are made in Russia.

          And while Russia developed a lot of new missiles for the MiGs after 1991, Ukraine and also Poland only have medium-range missiles for them at best, not having produced new missiles since the breakup of the Soviet-Union.

          For the F-16, there is a virtually unlimited supply of various (modern) missiles and spare parts.

          And probably, also avionics, radar, sensors and stuff are more advanced on later models F-16’s than the Russian jets, but this is just speculation by Bert (I have seen an interview with a Ukrainian pilot flying a Su-27 saying this is not really true).

          This is the video of this interview, I think it is a really good one.

          I have no doubt Ukraine should switch to Western jets, (preferably the Saab Gripen, as they can use bad airstrips like Soviet planes), but maybe now is not the right moment.

          Also notice that it is only since a few weeks that Western made missiles were successfully mounted to MiG’s, so maybe also the Ukrainian narrative will change as well. This solved the most important problem the MiGs had, which was the unavailability of missiles.

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