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Dutch minister: F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots may start this summer

by Kate Tsurkan June 12, 2023 9:13 PM 2 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, during a visit to a military base in Soesterberg, Netherlands, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Photographer: Peter Boer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told Reuters in a June 12 interview published on June 12 that the Netherlands and other allies were hoping to start F-16 fighter jet training for Ukrainian pilots this summer.

In May the U.S. and several European countries agreed to build an international coalition to help procure F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine and train Ukrainian fighter pilots.

"This summer is our ambition. And we'll see if that's realistic,"  Ollongren said, adding that the program would ideally be fully operational within six months.

The training program, which has been backed by the U.S., also includes Belgium and Luxembourg. France and the U.K. have also offered their assistance, Ollongren added.

According to the defense minister, Denmark is one possible location for the training program given that F-16 flight simulators are located there.

"It is a very strong weapons system. It's a very strong capability. But it's not going to be available anytime soon and President (Volodymyr) Zelensky, of course, knows that," Ollongren said.

Ukraine's allies are hoping that supplying weapons like more advanced fighter jets will not only bolster Ukraine's chances of victory in the war against Russia but also discourage any future aggression from Russia.

Two anonymous sources told Reuters that the training program is set to commence with two groups, each consisting of 12 Ukrainian pilots who already possess experience in operating MiG-29 fighter jets.

However, Ollongren did not share any such details on the potential size and scope of the training program.

Ukraine has received 14 MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland and 13 from Slovakia but has been pushing for more advanced aircraft. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has previously said that it requires at least 48 F-16 fighter jets to liberate territory from Russia.

During a press conference in late May, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the Netherlands was "seriously considering" giving F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Editorial: Arming Ukraine won’t escalate war. Reluctance to do so will
First it was the tanks, now it’s the fighter jets. As Ukraine braces for another possible major Russian offensive in the upcoming weeks, Western leaders are yet again coming up with a variety of excuses why this time, they cannot justify supplying F-16 and F-35 fighter jets to Ukraine.
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