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Ukraine conflict – Analysis: Dutch and Danish F-16 options for Ukraine

Both the Netherlands (pictured) and Denmark have F-16s that are shortly to be replaced in national service by the F-35, which would be well suited to Ukraine's needs. (Chris Croot)

Following the recent announcement by the United States that it would now support a transfer of Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft to Ukraine, attention has turned to possible donors.

Norway's fleet of 57 aircraft was retired in January 2022, with 32 sold to Romania and 12 to US firm Draken International. A handful of unsold jets may be available for transfer but their condition is not known. This leaves the Dutch and Danish F-16 fleets as the current in-service frontrunners for transfer.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) operates a fleet of 29 F-16AM/BM Block 15 mid-life upgrade (MLU) aircraft, while the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) maintains around 40 F-16AM/BMs also upgraded to the MLU standard.

The MLU package was developed for European operators to bring their fighters to a standard comparable to the US Air Force's F-16 Block 50/52. The package devised in the late 1990s and introduced in the early 2000s was intended to keep the aircraft relevant until the mid-2010s and so introduced a raft of substantial changes.

The upgrade added a new processor to the AN/APG-66 radar, an improved-range identification friend-or-foe (IFF) enhancing beyond visual range (BVR) situational awareness, and a new modular mission computer, which allows continuous upgrades and addition of new weapons and sensors.

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