The United States has approved the deployment of F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and the Netherlands to Ukraine as soon as the training of pilots is completed.
“Washington gave Denmark and the Netherlands official assurances that the United States will expedite approval of transfer requests for F-16s to go to Ukraine when the pilots are trained,” a U.S. government official told the Reuters news agency.
U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken confirmed the decision in a letter sent to his Danish and Dutch counterparts.
“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 wrote.
A coalition of 11 countries should start training Ukrainian pilots in F-16 fighter jets later this month, led by Denmark. Troels Poulsen, Denmark’s acting defense minister, said in July that he hoped to see “results” from the training by early 2024.
Kyiv has long been asking its Western allies to hand over the fighter jets, and Denmark and the Netherlands are now leading an international program to train Ukrainian pilots and support staff to both fly and maintain the aircraft.
It is not known how many F-16s Kyiv would receive, but the Netherlands has more than a dozen fighters available for potential transfer to Ukraine after an earlier sale essentially fell through.
Denmark, meanwhile, has 43 F-16 fighters, but with the Scandinavian country aiming to switch to the more modern F-35 by 2025, Kyiv could receive all of them in the next few years.
Analysts pointed out that while the decision and the subsequent training means that Ukraine won’t be able to use the planes in its current counter-offensive before cold weather slows down military operations, it will help the country deter Russian planes from entering its air space afterward.