The Netherlands is set to send its first batch of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in 2024, as announced by the country’s defense minister, Kajsa Ollongren, on Tuesday. Ollongren stated in an interview with MSNBC that prior to the delivery of the jets, comprehensive training for pilots, crew members, and technicians is essential to ensure proficiency in operating and combat capabilities. While she didn’t provide a precise timeframe for the training, Ollongren estimated it to span between six and eight months.
Ollongren emphasized that such processes require a significant amount of time, underscoring the importance of the message being conveyed. She highlighted that the key signal is not only directed towards Kyiv but also Moscow and the Kremlin, indicating a clear stance: “We are there.”
The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway have collectively declared their intent to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, a decision that comes following U.S. approval allowing Ukrainian pilots to undergo training. This move has been welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has persistently advocated for Western support in providing his forces with modern aircraft to counter Moscow’s extensive invasion.
On Tuesday, Ollongren clarified that the Netherlands is in the process of transitioning to F-35s, which enables them to allocate F-16s to Ukraine. While acknowledging that the F-16s alone won’t ensure Ukraine’s victory in the war, Ollongren stressed their significance in enhancing Ukraine’s air defense capabilities.
She emphasized, “It’s an excellent weapons system,” underscoring the importance of Ukraine receiving it. Additionally, Ollongren mentioned plans for a pilot training center in Romania, aiming for its swift establishment.
Denmark has already commenced training eight Ukrainian pilots for jet operation since August, and the United States is set to initiate pilot training in October, following English language instruction for Ukrainian pilots.