Dutch F-16s Arrive At European Training Centre To Train Ukrainian And Romanian Pilots

Dutch F-16 Ukraine
One of the F-16s in the hangar before departing for Romania. (Photo: Dutch Minister of Defense)

The EFTC’s F-16s, which remain property of the Netherlands, will be used to train Ukrainian and Romanian pilots.

The first batch of five F-16s flew to Romania earlier today to be assigned to the new European F-16 Training Centre (EFTC) at Baza 86 Aeriana Fetesti in Romania. The aircraft, equipped only with external fuel tanks, were seen in few photos with only their serial number on the tail and subdued Dutch roundels, while the other markings have been removed.

The EFTC, announced in August 2023 by Lockheed Martin and the governments of Romania and the Netherlands, will enhance mission readiness through a comprehensive F-16 training solution for Romanian  and Ukrainian pilots, as well as other regional F-16 operators. The Netherlands took the initiative and made 12 to 18 F-16s, which will remain property of the Dutch government, available for this purpose.

The first five F-16s, a mix of single seater F-16AM and two-seater F-16BM aircraft, flew this morning to Romania, with an official statement confirming the ferry flight while some of the aircraft were visible on flight tracking websites. According to the Mode-S identification, at least one of this Vipers comes from the ones that the RNLAF used to train its pilots at Tucson Air National Guard Base, Arizona, and returned to Europe last year.

According to the statement, the training center in Romania will start working on a refresher course for the hired F-16 instructors and later will start training pilots. A particular emphasis has been put on the fact that the aircraft will fly only in NATO airspace.

Earlier this year, on August 20, the Netherlands and Denmark announced the transfer of their F-16s, that are in the process of being replaced by the F-35, to Ukraine. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that Denmark will transfer 19 of their 43 F-16s, with the first six due to be delivered around new year, followed by eight in 2024 and five in 2025. As for the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the country has 42 F-16s available but has yet to decide whether all of them will be donated.

The route of one of the F-16s visible on Mode-S during the ferry flight from Charleroi, Belgium, to Romania. (Image via RadarBox)

The Danish defense ministry confirmed that the training would start in August in Denmark, run by a coalition of 11 countries, with Denmark saying that the first results of the training are expected in early 2024. The United States later joined the effort and several Ukrainian pilots and maintainers already received language training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and are now training at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, facilitated by the Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing.

As for Romania, the country currently operates 17 former Portuguese F-16s which will be joined soon by 32 F-16s, recently acquired from Norway, whose deliveries are expected to start this year. The latter, which are expected to fly at least for ten years following a modernization program, replace the recently retired MiG-21 Lancer. Romania, however, is already working on the post-F-16 future and has plans to acquire 32 F-35.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.