Ukraine set to obtain 61 F-16s from Denmark and Netherlands

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, are seen during a press conference in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has secured a promise of up to 61 F-16 fighter aircraft from Denmark and the Netherlands during his latest Western European tour for support, but it seems that acquiring the aircraft is only the beginning of a road toward full deployment.

The first six aircraft are expected around the new year. The Netherlands and Denmark will offer Ukraine F-16 fighter jets once certain conditions are met. One relates to the training of Ukrainian pilots, which began last week.

While visiting these two countries, as well as Sweden where he discussed Gripen aircraft, Zelensky welcomed the “historic, powerful and motivating” announcement. Denmark has already started training Ukrainian pilots and engineers, and Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has pledged to donate 19 F-16s, the Ukrainian president announced.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, second right, and Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, center, look at F-16 fighter jets in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

“We hope for six around the new year, another eight next year, and the remaining five in 2025,” the Danish prime minister added.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry adviser Oleksiy Kopytko said the F-16s also need spare parts, maintenance, weapons and proper infrastructure to operate fully in Ukrainian skies. Therefore, the decision to supply them is only half the battle, he wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

According to Kopitko, as of now, there are clear agreements on the training of Ukrainian pilots and personnel who will service the planes. All this corresponds to the memorandum, which was signed in Vilnius in July by the members of the “aviation coalition,” consisting of 11 countries.

As a result, it is expected that crews and technicians “will be trained exactly in the number that was agreed.

“At the moment, the configuration is being formed: Who will transfer what, how much and when. Because planes are half the battle. Ground infrastructure (and there is special equipment). Ammunition (missiles, bombs, projectiles – an expensive process and we do not produce these things, we have to get them from someone or buy them). Maintenance and repairs (spare parts – obtain, buy, produce under license, etc.),” Kopitko wrote.

He added that all this will have to be included in the budget as well. The F-16 aircraft will not be transferred until pilots and ground crews are properly trained.

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