Naval Air: Ukraine Trains Naval Aviators

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December 8, 2008: The Ukraine wants to become the international capital of carrier aviation training. Decades ago, the Soviet Union built its aircraft carrier pilot training facilities at Nitka, outside Odessa, a city that is, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, in the independent country of Ukraine. Ukraine is now trying to attract China and India as customers for these facilities. China has signed up, and is buying aircraft carrier equipment made in Ukraine. China is expanding its own carrier aviation training center, and is buying consulting and technical services from Ukraine to assist in that project. One interesting item to come out of the visits by Chinese naval aviation personnel to Ukraine, is that the Varyag, a former Soviet carrier that China bought from Russia six years ago, is being restored for use as a training carrier. This explains the spotty restoration work that has been done on the Varyag. However, the Chinese indicated that the Varyag could still be turned into an operational combat carrier, either before or after it enters service as a training ship.

The Nitka base was used by the Soviets to train MiG-29K and Su-33 pilots for service on their carriers. India is buying MiG-29Ks for their carriers, and China is apparently building, with Ukrainian help, a carrier version of the Su-30 (which is what the Su-33 was).