Belgium Will Transfer 30 F-16s To Ukraine

Belgium F-16 Ukraine
File photo of a Belgian Air Force F-16AM. (Image credits: Stefano D’Urso/The Aviationist)

With the addition of the Belgian F-16s, the total number that Ukraine will receive now increases from 55 to 85, with deliveries expected by this summer.

The Belgian government will transfer 30 F-16AM aircraft to Ukraine, following the signing of a €977 million military aid package on May 28, 2024. The announcement follows a meeting of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, during the Ukrainian President’s visit to Belgium.

Belgium already mentioned the intention of delivering some of its “Vipers” (as the F-16s are nicknamed by crews) although the number of aircraft had never been disclosed.

With the addition of the Belgian F-16s, the total number that Ukraine will receive now grows: from 55 to 85, with deliveries expected by this summer.

“These F-16 jets will be provided to Ukraine as soon as possible. Our aim is to be able to provide first aircraft before the end of this year, 2024,” De Croo said at a press conference with Zelenskyy. “We will do everything in our capacity to deliver some planes already this year.”

The Prime Minister made very clear that the aircraft must not fly on Russian territory: “On … utilization of weapons, everything which is covered by this agreement is very clear, it is for utilization by the Ukraine Defense Forces on Ukraine[’s] territory.”

While last year Belgium expected to transfer some F-16 by this summer, the plan has now been postponed by the and of the year, will deliveries to be completed by 2028. Let’s not forget that Belgium still operates the F-16 and its first F-35 recently performed the first flight, so the country will still need the older fighter for some time.

The F-16s for Ukraine

The donation of F-16s to Ukraine was first announced in Aug. 2023, when Netherlands and Denmark announced they will supply F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Ukraine has long sought the US-made fighters to achieve the air superiority against the Russians during the counter offensive.

The United States approved the transfer of the F-16s from Denmark and the Netherlands to Ukraine as soon as pilot training is completed. 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.

File photo of two Belgian F-16s during a training mission. (Image credit: Belgian Air Force)

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.

According to Air and Space Forces, U.S. officials said that the first cadre of Ukrainian pilots have graduated from U.S. F-16 training, while some other pilots are still undergoing training. The pilots will now perform additional training overseas, said Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Charlie Dietz.

“A small number of pilots have finished their U.S.-based training and moved forward to the next portion of training outside the United States,” Maj. Dietz said. “Additional Ukrainian pilots continue to train in Arizona. While I cannot confirm specific details regarding the training schedules and locations of individual pilots, I can assure you that we continue to work closely with our Ukrainian partners to enhance their operational readiness and interoperability within NATO standards.”

In addition to Belgium’s 30 F-16s, Ukraine will receive 19 F-16s from Denmark, 24 from the Netherlands and 12 from Norway (in addition to ten others to be used for spare parts). With deliveries expected to start soon and Russia threatening to attack all Ukrainian bases hosting F-16s, Ukraine is considering some countermeasures, including underground bunkers and dispersal.

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.