Espreso. Global

Netherlands sends its F-16s to Romania to train Ukrainian pilots 

12 October, 2023 Thursday

Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said that F-16 fighter jets, which will be used by Ukrainian pilots, will arrive to a new training center in Romania soon

NL Times reported the update.

According to Ollongern, setting up a training center in Romania is going well. 

“That’s going very well,” she said after a meeting with her colleagues at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. “We hope to transfer 12 to 18 aircraft to Romania within a few weeks, which means the center can start operating.”

The minister could not say when the Netherlands would transfer the first fighter jets to Ukraine. However, she reassured Ukraine will eventually get 24 that it can deploy in the war against Russia. 

Training Ukrainian pilots to master Western fighter jets

The spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuriy Ihnat, confirmed during a telethon that Ukrainian pilots who are currently undergoing a training program abroad will start flying F-16s in a few weeks.

Now Ukrainian pilots who are "training in the United States and other countries" are already undergoing simulator drills. This means training on simulators that reproduce the cockpit.

"It's a full-fledged aircraft, in fact, a 100% recreated cockpit. And they are already performing all the tasks set by their instructors in a more realistic way. I think in a few weeks they will be flying with an instructor on real aircraft. I think it is possible," Ihnat emphasized.

He added that each pilot has an individual training program. Therefore, someone will get into a real airplane earlier, and someone later.

Ihnat said that it is not easy to retrain for a Western fighter jet from a Soviet aircraft that was designed in 1970. That's why it takes time.

When will Ukraine get first fighter jets? 

"Even if it is spring (when the F-16s arrive in Ukraine – ed.), how long until then? It is clear that it is difficult at the front, but we have to wait," the spokesman said.

Ihnat also confirmed that Ukraine is doing its "homework" to prepare the infrastructure for the use of F-16 fighters.

According to Ukraine’s Air Force spokesman, it is impossible to build infrastructure during combat operations "like in peacetime, so that everything shines beautifully." The main thing now is that everything works, that the fighters can land on the runway, that there are safe places for them to hide and that the enemy cannot destroy the aircraft. In addition, Ukraine is working on establishing F-16 controls and communications.

F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine: details

On May 21, US President Joe Biden approved the training of Ukrainians on F-16s. Volodymyr Zelenskyy assured that Ukraine would not use these aircraft to strike at Russian territory. 

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that the first F-16 fighter jets are likely to fly in Ukraine's skies by the end of March 2024.

On August 17, the United States approved the shipment of F-16 multi-role fighters to Ukraine.

At the same time, Denmark said it would supply Ukraine with the aircraft if they were not used in Russia. 

The Netherlands will provide 42 fighter jets. At the same time, Norway will provide Ukraine with F-16s, but the exact number is unknown.

On September 15, Belgium joined the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16s. Earlier, the Belgian Defense Ministry said it would not provide Ukraine with F-16 fighters because they are outdated and in poor condition. Such aircraft are dangerous to operate.

On October 11, Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said that the country would be able to deliver the first F-16s to Ukraine in March-April 2024.

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