17:58 12 Oct 2023

Netherlands will send F-16 fighters to Romania to train Ukrainians "within weeks"

The Netherlands is set to transfer over a dozen F-16 jets to a training center in Romania so that Ukrainian pilots can begin training on the aircraft within weeks, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren says.

The preparations to set up the training center are "going very well," she added.

We hope to transfer twelve to eighteen aircraft to Romania within a few weeks, which means the center can start operating, Ollongren said during the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels.

She did not specify when her country would hand over the F-16s to Ukraine but guaranteed the first 24 fighters, the rest of which would be used for training purposes.

Ukraine's Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat confirmed that Ukrainian pilots who are currently undergoing a training program abroad will start flying F-16s in a few weeks.

This is a full-fledged airplane, a 100% recreated cockpit. The pilots are already performing more realistically all the tasks that their instructors set them. I think in a few weeks they will be flying with an instructor on real airplanes. I think it is possible.

Each pilot has an individual training program, meaning some will get on a real airplane earlier or later. Ihnat said that it is not easy to retrain a Western fighter jet from a Soviet aircraft that was designed back in 1970.

The fighters must master such techniques as landing on the runway, finding shelters, and destroying enemy aircraft.

The US has approved sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands to regain air dominance as soon as pilot training is completed, a Reuters source said.

Ukraine's allies Denmark and the Netherlands reached an agreement to provide 42 F-16 fighter jets.

On September 15, Belgium joined the newly formed "plane coalition" by pledging to send several jet fighters in 2025. The minister did not specify how many jets Ukraine will receive but only said that the number depends on Belgium's increasing army capabilities with new F-35 jets.

Yurii Ihnat said the troops need 128 foreign warplanes to gain air superiority and lead a dynamic counteroffensive.


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