Ukrainian Pilots Welcome Dutch F-16 Fighter Jets for Training in Romania

F-16 Fighter Jet
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 40 aircraft after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft during a mission over Iraq on 10 June 2008. This F-16 is assigned to the 34th EFS Balad Air Base, Iraq and is deployed from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/Released).

Fetesti Air Force Base, Romania – November 8, 2023: The Dutch Defense Ministry has fulfilled its promise by delivering the first batch of F-16 fighter jets to Fetesti Air Force Base in southeast Romania. These jets are designated for training purposes and will be utilized by Ukrainian and Romanian pilots.

This summer, the United States granted approval for the use of these American-made aircraft, which are originally from NATO member countries, Denmark and the Netherlands. The purpose of these jets is to train pilots who have experience flying predominantly Soviet-made models. The Dutch government has allocated between 12 to 18 planes for this training program, and it’s important to note that these jets will exclusively operate within NATO airspace.

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The Romanian training center is set to open in the coming months, with Lockheed-Martin, the aircraft manufacturer, responsible for providing training and maintenance services.

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President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude to the Netherlands and Prime Minister Mark Rutte for their support of Ukraine. He anticipates that these F-16s will soon find their way to Ukraine. Zelensky has been actively advocating for modern fighter jets, missiles, and air defense systems from Western allies.

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In the Netherlands, plans are underway to acquire 52 newer-generation F-35s from the United States, which will gradually replace the existing F-16 fleet. A total of 33 F-35s have already been received by the Dutch military.

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Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, after a meeting with President Zelensky, has also committed to potentially providing an undisclosed number of F-16s for Ukrainian pilots by 2025. However, confirmation of this commitment will only be possible after Belgian elections in May 2024.

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Currently, the current class of F-16 trainees is engaged in flight simulator training in Belgium. A Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson, Colonel Yuriy Ihnat, has hinted that the transition of these trainees to real F-16 combat aircraft with instructors will take place in the near future. Today’s announcement from the Dutch Ministry marks a significant step in enhancing Ukraine’s capabilities in the realm of modern fighter jets.

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