European Coalition Hopes To Start Deliveries Of F-16s To Ukraine In The Summer

A Dutch F-16 (Image credit: RNLAF)

According to the Minister of Defense of the Netherlands, Ukraine will get 24 ex-RNLAF F-16s.

An interesting update about the deliveries of the first F-16s to Ukraine was provided by the Minister of Defense of the Netherlands, Kaisa Ollongren, during a visit to the 306 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) at Leeuwarden AB, last week.

During her visit, Ollongren was interviewed by the Ukrainian media Ukrinformthat asked the Dutch Ministry some questions about the imminent transfer of F-16s to Kyiv.

“In total, we are going to hand over 24 F-16 fighters”, she said. “They will be transferred to Ukraine as soon as everything is ready. This moment depends on the training of Ukrainian pilots and technical personnel, as well as, of course, on the infrastructure. This transfer is a joint work, a joint effort with Ukraine, as well as with Denmark, the United States and other countries. It’s hard, it’s difficult, but it will happen. Our coalition hopes that already this summer we will be able to start deliveries of F-16 fighters, Denmark will deliver first and the next one is Netherlands.”

Pilot training underway

At the moment, training of Ukrainian pilots is underway in the UK, in the U.S., in Denmark and in Romania, depending on their flying experience. A European F-16 Training Centre (EFTC) at Baza 86 Aeriana Fetesti was established to train Romanian and Ukrainian pilots, as well as other regional F-16 operators with more 18 RNLAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force) F-16s, which remain property of the Dutch government, available for this purpose.

The 24 aircraft mentioned by Ollongren are intended for delivery to Ukraine. The RNLAF is in the process of retiring its fleet of Vipers making the jets available for the new operator. Some of them are currently being prepared for the hand over, in consultation with coalition partners.

Asked whether the Defense Minister and Prime Minister Rutte personally asked the U.S. to help Ukraine with the F-16, Ollongren responded: “Let’s say we discussed all possibilities with our partners and friends. In my opinion, what matters is that we, together with the United States and Denmark, were able to reach this decision. Since then, we’ve been working very hard to make it happen.”

Dutch F-16 taking off (Image credit: RNLAF)

PGMs for the F-16s and drones

Along with the jets, the Netherlands has pledged 2 billion Euro in military aid for Ukraine in 2024. Ollongren said 150 million Euro will fund guided air-to-ground weaponry that can be used by F-16s, while 200 million will go to Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) drones.

“This is the MQ-9 Reaper, an unmanned aerial vehicle,” Ollongren said during her interview at Leeuwarden AB, where RNLAF MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance and attack UAVs are based. “This aircraft is located in Leeuwarden, in the north of the Netherlands, and the rest of these aircraft are now in Romania. There they serve the Netherlands and NATO, help to make as complete a picture of the situation as possible, including, of course, on the Black Sea and on the border with Ukraine” she said.

MQ-9 of the 306 Sqn. (Image credit: RNLAF)

The RNLAF operates four MQ-9A Block 5 Reapers which were delivered in 2022 but it will expand its fleet from four to eight. The unmanned aircraft will also be upgraded to include capabilities such as maritime radars, a communications relay, extended range fuel tanks, electronic support measures (ESM), and weapons. The upgrades will take place incrementally over the next three years.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.