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Netherlands to deliver 18 F-16s to Ukraine

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 22, 2023 4:33 PM 2 min read
A F-16 aircraft is pictured after the first delivery of Norway's old F-16 fighter aircraft to Romania at Rygge Air Force Base, Norway on Nov. 28, 2023. (Ole Berg-Rusten/NTB/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Netherlands will deliver 18 F-16 aircraft to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Dec. 22, following a call with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The Netherlands and Denmark led the way in the summer of 2023 in forming an international coalition that would train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets.

A training center for Ukrainian F-16 pilots officially opened in Romania on Nov. 13, following news that training programs had begun in Denmark and the U.S. Earlier in November, the Dutch Defense Ministry said it would send up to 18 F-16s to Romania for training purposes only.

Rutte said on X that he "informed President Zelensky of our government's decision to prepare an initial 18 F-16 fighter aircraft for delivery to Ukraine.

"Besides an export permit, a number of other criteria must also still be met before delivery can take place, including requirements for personnel and infrastructure."

"This decision confirms the Netherlands’ undiminished commitment to providing Ukraine with the support it needs to respond to the ongoing Russian aggression," Rutte said.

The Netherlands held a general election on Nov. 22, which saw a surprise for far-right and eurosceptic candidate Geert Wilders. Rutte remains prime minister until a new coalition government is formed.

Zelensky posted on X that he thanked the Dutch government for "its decision to start preparing the initial 18 F-16 jets for their delivery to Ukraine."

More jets may be delivered at a later date, a spokesperson from the Dutch Defense Ministry told Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

Dutch Defense Minister Kasja Ollongren said that since the Air Force is in the process of switching to F-35s, "eventually we won't fly with F-16s anymore anyway."

The first Ukrainian pilots are expected to complete their F-16 training by the end of 2023 and be able to fly the jets in Ukraine by the spring or summer of 2024.

Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium have agreed to supply their own F-16 aircraft to bolster Ukraine's Air Force.

Dutch minister: ‘If you don’t stop Russia now, they’ll go further. It’s not just Ukraine’
Since the start of the full-scale invasion, the Netherlands has taken a leading role in providing Ukraine with what it needs to survive. Seven years after voting down an EU Association Agreement with Ukraine in a referendum, effectively delaying it for a year, the Netherlands now ranks eighth in te…
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