New F-16 training center opens in Romania, no plans for Ukrainian pilot training yet
On the 13th of November, the opening took place at the Feteşti military base, situated 150 km from Bucharest. Ukrainian pilots will commence the F-16 training
The official unveiling was conducted by the Defense Ministers of Romania and the Netherlands, Angel Tîlvăr and Kajsa Ollongren, as reported by DW.
The Netherlands will contribute 12 to 18 jets to train both Ukrainian and Romanian pilots. The initial batch of five F-16s from the Netherlands was recently delivered to Romania.
Lockheed, the F-16 manufacturer, will supply training and maintenance personnel. Preliminarily, pilot training is going to take at least 6 months.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat clarified that no exercises are currently underway.
"No exercises are starting in Romania. As for the center, the Netherlands has transferred 5 aircraft. It is clear why they are doing this. Because they are switching to F-35," he said.
Ihnat noted that F-16s are expensive to maintain, especially in winter.
"That's why they handed them over to Romania, reporting that we have fulfilled our obligations," the spokesman said.
According to him, the training center is still being formed.
"The foundation has just been poured, as far as I heard, in one of the locations," said Ihnat.
He noted that there is a runway there, but it is not enough for full-fledged exercises.
F-16 fighters for Ukraine
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 says 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.
On September 15, Belgium joined the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16s. The Belgian Defense Ministry previously announced that it would not provide Ukraine with F-16 fighters, but later the government suggested that Ukraine could receive several F-16s next year In 2024, the Netherlands plans to provide Ukraine with the first batch of F-16s.
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.
On October 12, media reported that the Netherlands will send F-16s to Romania, where Ukrainian pilots will begin training in a few weeks.
On October 26, Ukrainian pilots began flight training on F-16 fighter jets at an air base in Arizona, USA.
On November 1, the Pentagon announced that the training in Arizona could last from 5 to 9 months.
On November 7, five Dutch F-16 fighters arrived in Romania, where a training center for Ukrainian and Romanian pilots will soon open.