Netherlands considers offering F-16AM/BM fighters and paying for Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine

According to NL Times, the Dutch government will look into supplying some of its 68 F-16A/B MLU fighter jets (it originally had 213 aircraft) to Ukraine if the Kyiv government asks for it. During a parliamentary debate on January 19, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra said the Cabinet would look at such a request with an “open mind.” In Davos, Minister of Defense Kajsa Ollongren also said that the Netherlands is willing to help pay for modern Leopard 2 tanks that other countries send to Ukraine, NL Times reports.

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Netherlands considers offering F 16 fighters and Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine 1 F-16AM of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (KLu) (Picture source: KLu/The Aviation Geek Club)

All operational F-16A/Bs operated by the Netherlands Air Force (KLu, Koninklijke Luchtmacht) went through the Mid-Life Update (MLU) by 2003. A Multinational Operational Test and Evaluation center for the F-16A/B Mid-Life Update was established at Leeuwarden air base during 1997. As part of continuing defense cuts, the number of KLu F-16s to undergo MLU was reduced from 170 to 138 in mid-1993. After more defense budget cuts, the current fleet is considered to consist in 68 F-16AM/BM operational aircraft.

In the interception role, KLu (Dutch) F-16s are equipped with AIM-9N, -9L, and -9M Sidewinder AAM's. AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles are used for longer-range interceptions. All F-16 units have Mk82/84 bombs and cluster weapons. In 1997, the RNLAF awarded Hughes Missile Systems Company a contract for 36 AGM-65G missiles. During operations over former Yugoslavia, the RNLAF detachment in Italy leased AGM-65D missiles from the USAF, pending delivery of the AGM-65G. 312 squadron has a tactical nuclear commitment, carried out with US-supplied nuclear weapons. The RNlAF has also acquired LGBs (GBU-24, GBU-10, GBU-12, CBU-87), and will acquire AIM-9X and JDAM.

Offering F-16s… and also paying for foreign Leopard 2 tanks

Dutch Minister of Defense Kajsa Ollongren asked the Cabinet to supply F-16s and infantry fighting vehicles to the Ukrainian armed forces. According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra, the Netherlands only sends items that Ukraine asks for. Kyiv currently mainly needs heavy weapons. The country has been asking for modern battle tanks for some time. Poland and Finland want to send German Leopard 2 tanks, but they need permission from Germany, which is given this Wednesday at 1.00 PM by German chancellor Olav Scholz. Germany itself will send 14 of its own Leopard 2A6, almost the latest version of the Leopard 2 which go up to A7 and A7+.

The Royal Netherlands Army operated 445 Leopard 2s. 330 of these were updated to the 2A5 standard in 1993, and later, 188 of these were converted to the 2A6 standard. Many Leopard 2s were sold after the end of the Cold War. In April 2011, the Dutch Ministry of Defence announced that the last remaining tank division would be disbanded and the remaining Leopard tanks sold due to large budget cuts. In May 2011, the last tank fired the final shot at the Bergen-Hohne Training Area. They were due to be delivered to the Indonesian Army, which planned to purchase the entire Dutch stock of Leopard 2A6s. The deal was scrapped after opposition from the Dutch Parliament. The Dutch Army offered its formerly operated Leopard 2A6s for comparative tests to be conducted by the Peruvian Army for possible acquisition. By September 2013, the Leopard 2A6 had been disqualified by Peru due to logistical complexities. The Leopard 2s were eventually sold to Finland in a deal signed in January 2014 for €200 million with deliveries to start from 2015 to 2019. In September 2015, the Dutch government published that the army would have 16 tanks put out of storage and 18 were to be leased from Germany for a new tank squadron by 2016 as part of a German armored battalion.

It was reported on a previous occasion that the Dutch government would be making EUR 2.5 billion available this year to support Ukraine. By doing so, the Netherlands is sending a message of undiminished solidarity to the Ukrainian people, who can count on Dutch support for as long as it is needed. The Netherlands is not alone in its stance. For example, the supply of tanks to Ukraine was discussed in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. The Netherlands joined a group of countries, which includes Germany, that indicated that it would study the possibilities regarding the supply of Western main battle tanks, including the provision of training. That process will be further explored in the coming period. Furthermore, the participating countries again underlined their intention to provide long-term military support to Ukraine. They reaffirmed that this support is unconditional and will continue for the duration of the conflict.

Ukraine has a continuing need for well-trained military personnel. The UK took the initiative at the beginning of July last year with Operation Interflex, which was launched to train Ukrainian military personnel rapidly and on a large scale. The Netherlands joined the operation. In the period September to November, approximately 90 members of the Royal Netherlands Army trained 400 Ukrainian recruits. From this month to April, almost 70 members of the Netherlands Marine Corps will train a further 400 Ukrainian recruits. Furthermore, a Dutch officer is serving on the operation’s British coordinating staff. Throughout 2023, Dutch service members will train hundreds of Ukrainian military personnel.

Netherlands considers offering F 16 fighters and Leopard 2A6 tanks to Ukraine 3 Dutch Leopard 2A6 (Picture source: Wikipedia)