The Netherlands has pledged to deliver the first F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters to Ukraine in 2024, but it will come only after the pilots, crew, and technicians have been trained to fly and fight in the aircraft, Kajsa Ollongren, the Dutch defense minister, said during an interview with MSNBC.
Though Ollongren didn’t give a specific timeline, she explained that the training was estimated to take between six and eight months.
“These things do take time,” Ollengren explained during the interview. “I think the most important thing is the signal we’re sending, not only to Kyiv but also to Moscow and the Kremlin. That is: We are there.”
F-16s Coming Sooner Than Later
Though the aircraft won’t arrive in time to support Kyiv’s offensive, the F-16 has been high on the list of items called for by the government in Kyiv, which hopes to take command of the skies in its fight against Russia. To date, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway have announced that they would provide Ukraine with a number of aircraft.
All three of the NATO members are now transitioning to the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which is allowing for the transfer of the respective fleets of Fighting Falcons. Last year, Norway retired its fleet of 57 F-16s as it adopted the F-35 – and later sold 32 of its Fighting Falcons to NATO ally Romania.
Though 13 of the aircraft are reportedly beyond the ability to be repaired and could end up in museums, used for spare parts, or scrapped; the remaining dozen of the aircraft were due to be sold to a private company that provides training to the United States Air Force, and some aviation experts have suggested those fighters could be well suited for Ukraine.
Old But Capable Warbird
Though the F-16 was developed during the Cold War, it is still considered a capable warbird. Ollongren added that the fighters may not be enough to “make Ukraine win the war,” but they could help with its air defense. “It’s an excellent weapons system. That’s why it is so important they do get it.”
According to Politico.eu, Denmark began to train eight Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 in August, while the United States has said it would begin training with Ukrainian aviators next month, but only after the pilots had received English language training.
The F-16 has also been widely operated by several NATO members, which would make supplying Kyiv with spare parts easier than the Russian aircraft currently used by Ukraine.
Moreover, there are approximately 3,000 operational F-16s in service today in 25 countries, a testament to what is easily the world’s most successful, combat-proven multi-role jet fighter ever produced. The fast and agile F-16 Fighting Falcon isn’t just one of the top fighters it is also among the most cost-effective.
While it lacks the range and payload of the larger twin-engine F-15 Eagle, it also costs less than half – which is why the fourth-generation F-16 has been in use since the 1970s and will likely keep flying for many more years to come. Since entering service in 1979, this “warbird” has been battle-tested, engaging in more than 400,000 combat sorties and has a combined 19 million flight hours. It has been adapted to complete a number of missions, including air-to-air fighting, ground attack, and electronic warfare. This could make it an aircraft that is desperately needed in Ukraine!
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.