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Ukraine conflict: Netherlands makes first F-16s available for Ukraine

On 22 December the Netherlands said it had made the first 18 F-16s available to Ukraine, with more potentially to follow. (Royal Netherlands Air Force)

The Netherlands has released to Ukraine the first 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft, with others potentially to follow.

Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren made the announcement on 22 December, saying that with the export approvals in place, the jets are being prepared for delivery. No details on the delivery timeline were provided, except that it would happen when trained pilots and suitable infrastructure were in place in Ukraine.

“Before the transfer to Ukraine, all aircraft will be subject to an inspection and, if necessary, a modification. In addition, a number of the aircraft also need a major service,” the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) said.

News of the formal release to Ukraine came weeks after the Netherlands transferred the first F-16s to the European F-16 Training Center that will instruct Ukrainian pilots in Romania. Opened on 13 November, the training centre was established at the 86th Fetesti Air Base in eastern Romania. Although donated to the centre, the jets will continue to be owned by the RNLAF.

The supply of aircraft and the training of pilots and ground crew for Ukraine are being undertaken by the international ‘F-16 coalition' announced at the 2023 NATO Vilnius Summit in Lithuania. This coalition comprises Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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