On August 20, the Netherlands and Denmark confirmed they would provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets in a long-awaited statement expected to boost Ukraine’s challenging counteroffensive against Russian invaders.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine would get 42 jets.
Mr Zelenskyy travelled to Denmark and the Netherlands to conclude the delivery deals, a step which the Ukrainian President called a “breakthrough agreement”.
This announcement comes following approval from the US, allowing Ukrainian pilots to get training to fly the US-made fighter jets and a pledge by Washington to eventually provide the aircraft itself as soon as the training is complete.
The deal was signed after months of Ukraine’s requests for F-16s to bolster its air force and give a crucial advantage on the battlefield against Russian invading troops, as the counteroffensive would be faster with air cover.
The Netherlands has 42 F-16 jets available, but Prime Minister Rutte did not immediately confirm when the first fighter jets might be delivered or how many his country will transfer to Ukraine. Mr Rutte indicated it would also depend on how soon Ukrainian pilots and infrastructure are ready.
“The F-16s will not help immediately now with the war effort. It is, anyway, a long-term commitment from the Netherlands. We want them to be active and operational as soon as possible. (…) Not for the next month, that’s impossible, but hopefully soon afterwards”.Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
Receiving the Ukrainian President at Skrydstrup air base, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she hoped the first six F-16s could be handed over to Ukraine around New Year, 8 more jets in 2024 and the remaining 5 in 2025.
According to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Denmark has been on the side of Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Denmark knows that the Ukrainian Army needs weapons to defend its country. That is why the decision was made to donate the aircraft.
“From the very beginning of the war, Denmark has stood by Ukraine. We know that your freedom is our freedom. We also know that you need more. And that is why we are announcing today that we will provide 19 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.”Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen
Mette Frederiksen disclosed that more than 70 people from Ukraine are currently in Denmark and are preparing to start their studies.
The Dutch and Danish governments are part of a now 11-country strong jet coalition working on training Ukrainian pilots to fly advanced Western aircraft.
The het coalition includes the Netherlands, Romania, Denmark, United Kingdom, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, and Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy declined to comment on how many Ukrainian pilots would undergo the F16 training in Denmark and later in Romania, mentioning security reasons.
The US decision to greenlight the F16s delivery to Ukraine marks a U-turn by the Biden administration, as previously it had rejected to approve any transfer of the advanced Western aircraft to Kyiv for fear that it could escalate tensions with Russia.
The combat capability of F-16 aircraft depends on the weapons carried. The F-16 is a good aircraft platform to deploy various weapons, including Western long-range high-precision missiles that NATO allies have already provided Ukraine, such as “Scalp” and “Storm Shadow”.
So, the Ukrainian Air Force might be able to defend its skies with F-16s in the coming winter. And at this period, according to British intelligence, Russian troops plan to bombard Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as they did in the autumn of 2022.
Ukraine will receive F16s when its pilots will complete the training. According to Ukrainian officials’ statements, the F16 training has already started. Training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters may take 6 months, but the exact time frame is still to be confirmed.