The United States has agreed to send F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and the Netherlands to Ukraine as soon as pilot training is completed, Reuters reports this with reference to officials of these countries.
“We welcome Washington’s decision to pave the way for sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine,” Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Twitter. “Now, we will further discuss the subject with our European partners.”
Denmark also announced that it would start discussing the issue of providing Ukraine with aircraft.
“The government has said several times that a donation is a natural next step after training. We are discussing it with close allies, and I expect we will soon be able to be more concrete about that,” Danish defence minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen told news agency Ritzau.
This month, a coalition of 11 countries was to begin training Ukrainian pilots in F-16 fighter jets in Denmark. In July, acting Danish Defense Minister Troels Poulsen said that the country hoped to see “results” from the training in early 2024.
Denmark and the Netherlands are leading the international effort to train pilots and support personnel and ultimately enable Ukraine to obtain F-16s for use in a war with Russia.
In May, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands was seriously considering providing F-16s to Ukraine as it withdraws fighter jets from its armed forces.
According to the Dutch Ministry of Defense, the Dutch Air Force has 24 F-16s that will be decommissioned by mid-2024. Another 18 aircraft are currently available for sale, and 12 of them have allegedly already been sold.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sent letters to his Danish and Dutch counterparts assuring them that the requests would be approved.
“I am writing to express the United States’ full support for both the transfer of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and for the training of Ukrainian pilots by qualified F-16 instructors,” Blinken said in a letter to the two officials, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. Blinken said, “It remains critical that Ukraine is able to defend itself against ongoing Russian aggression and violation of its sovereignty.”
According to him, the approval of the requests would allow Ukraine to take “full advantage of its new capabilities as soon as the first set of pilots complete their training.”
According to Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat, the Ukrainian Armed Forces will not be able to operate F-16 fighters this fall and winter. These words coincide with earlier forecasts of Western partners. F-16s should be expected no earlier than the spring of 2024.
The recent missile attacks by the Russian occupiers on the western regions of Ukraine are intended to prove to their partners that Ukraine is incapable of protecting future rear bases and runways for the F-16s. Therefore, the transfer of F-16s should be preceded by a significant strengthening of Ukrainian air defenses.