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Training center for Ukrainian F-16 pilots opens in Romania

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 13, 2023 1:42 PM 1 min read
F-16 Tiger Demo Team performs on the first day of NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days in Czechia on Sept. 16, 2023. Illustrative purposes only. (Lukas Kabon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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The training center for Ukrainian pilots to learn how to fly F-16 fighter jets has officially opened in Romania, Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar announced on Nov. 13.

The training center is located at the 86th Air Base in Fetesti, 130 kilometers east of Bucharest.

"The center will be an international hub for F-16 pilot training and will facilitate increased interoperability between allies," Tilvar said.

Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren was also present at the ceremonial opening.

Defense cooperation between European countries is important, because no European country can ensure its own security alone, she said. "We have to work together."

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Nov. 7 that five Dutch F-16 fighter jets had already arrived.

"I'm grateful to the Netherlands and Prime Minister Mark Rutte for leading the way in supporting Ukraine," Zelensky wrote on the social media platform X.

"We keep working together to welcome F-16s into Ukrainian skies as soon as possible."

The Netherlands will provide 12-18 F-16s for training purposes, but the jets will remain Dutch property and will only be flown in NATO territory, the Dutch Defense Ministry said.

The training of Ukrainian pilots began in Denmark this August in partnership with other nations of the "fighter jet coalition." Washington later announced that it would launch its own training sessions for Ukrainian aviators in October.

The training coalition was originally formed in July with the purpose of using resources and facilities from Ukraine's allies to help train Ukrainian pilots.

Although the pace of F-16 procurement and training has picked up, it's estimated that the first Ukrainian pilots to undergo F-16 jet fighter training will not be ready to fly them until summer 2024.

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