The Netherlands and Denmark confirmed on Sunday (20 August) that they will provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, in a long-awaited announcement expected to give a boost to Kyiv’s difficult counteroffensive against Russia.
This comes following approval from the US last week, allowing Ukrainian pilots to get training to fly the American-made warplanes and a pledge by Washington to eventually provide the aircraft hardware itself as soon as the training is complete.
It also comes after months of pleas from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for F-16s to bolster Ukraine’s air force and give the country a crucial advantage on the battlefield after it launched a counteroffensive against Russian forces without air cover.
Zelenskyy travelled to both countries on Sunday to finalise the delivery deals, a step which he called a “breakthrough agreement”.
”F-16s will certainly give new energy, confidence, and motivation to fighters and civilians. I’m sure it will deliver new results for Ukraine and the entire Europe,? Zelenskyy said in Eindhoven, standing alongside outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The Netherlands has 42 F-16s available but Rutte did not immediately say when the first fighter jets might be delivered or how many the country will send. He indicated it would also depend on how soon Ukrainian crews and infrastructure are ready.
“The F-16s will not help immediately now with the war effort. It is anyway a long-term commitment from the Netherlands,” Rutte said.
“We want them to be active and operational as soon as possible. (…) Not for the next month, that’s impossible, but hopefully soon afterwards,” he added.
Receiving Zelenskyy hours later at Skrydstrup air base, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she hoped the first six F-16s could be handed over to Ukraine around New Year, eight more next year and the remaining five in 2025.
“We know that your freedom is our freedom. We also know that you need more” weapons, Frederiksen said during the joint press point.
Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel that Ukraine would get 42 jets.
The Dutch and Danish governments are part of a now eleven-country strong coalition that is working to train Ukrainian pilots to fly advanced Western fighter jets.
It currently includes the Netherlands, Romania, Denmark, United Kingdom, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, plus Ukraine.
Asked about specifics of the training, Zelenskyy declined to comment on how many Ukrainian pilots would undergo training in Denmark and later in Romania, citing security reasons.
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