United States approves sending F-16s to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands


On August 17, 2023, the United States greenlighted the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands. This move is part of efforts to bolster Ukraine's defense against Russian invaders. The decision comes as Ukraine has been actively seeking US-made F-16 fighter jets to counter Russian aerial dominance.

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United States Approves Sending F 16s to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands 925 001   F-16 Fighting Falcon Multirole fighter (Picture source: United States DoD )


A US official confirmed that the F-16 transfer would commence once pilot training is completed. Washington has given official assurances to Denmark and the Netherlands that the US would expedite the approval of transfer requests for F-16s to Ukraine as soon as the pilots are trained. It's essential to note that even if the equipment belongs to Denmark and the Netherlands, the manufacturing country (in this case, the US) has a veto right against sending its equipment to third-party countries.

Dutch Foreign Minister, Wopke Hoekstra, welcomed the decision, stating that the matter would be further discussed with European partners. Danish Defense Minister, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, also confirmed that supplying the jets to Ukraine would be discussed with close allies. A coalition of 11 countries is set to begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 fighter jets in Denmark this month.

NATO members, Denmark, and the Netherlands have spearheaded international efforts to train pilots and support staff, maintain aircraft, and ultimately enable Ukraine to acquire F-16s for use in its war against Russia.

Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, stated in May that the Netherlands was seriously considering providing F-16s to Ukraine, as they are currently phasing out the fighter jets from their own armed forces. The Dutch Defense Ministry revealed that the Netherlands currently has 24 operational F-16s, which will be phased out by mid-2024. Another 18 jets are up for sale, with 12 provisionally sold.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, sent letters to his Danish and Dutch counterparts, expressing full US support for the transfer of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and for the training of Ukrainian pilots by qualified F-16 instructors. US President Joe Biden endorsed training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16s in May. In addition to training in Denmark, a training center is to be established in Romania.

The F-16 serves as both a multirole fighter, capable of performing various missions, and an air superiority fighter, designed to establish and maintain control of the airspace by defeating enemy aircraft. The F-16 was developed and produced in the United States. It had an unplanned first flight on January 20, 1974, with its official maiden flight on February 2, 1974. It was introduced into service on August 17, 1978. Currently, it remains one of the most widely used fighter jets globally, with the primary user being the United States Air Force. However, 25 other nations, including Denmark and the Netherlands, also operate the aircraft.

However, Ukraine will not be able to operate the US-made F-16 fighter jets this coming autumn and winter, according to Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson, Yuriy Ihnat. US officials have privately stated that the F-16 jets would not significantly aid Ukraine in its current counteroffensive and would not be a game-changer when they eventually arrive, given Russian air defense systems and contested skies over Ukraine.