Tactical

Netherlands sends five F-16s to Romania to train Ukrainian pilots

PARIS — The Netherlands has stationed five F-16 jets in Romania to start training Ukrainian pilots, the Dutch Defence Ministry said.

Romanian and Ukrainian pilots will use the aircraft, which arrived at Fetesti Air Base in southeast Romania on Tuesday, at the European F-16 training center, the ministry explained. The training center will be officially opened “in the near future,” the ministry added.

The Netherlands and Denmark are in charge of coordinating European efforts to provide Ukraine with F-16 capabilities, and the U.S. defense company Lockheed Martin will provide training support and help maintain the aircraft.

The Dutch government has said it will make 12-18 F-16s available for training purposes, with the aircraft remaining the property of the Netherlands and solely flying in NATO airspace.

F-16 instructors will use those jets in a refresher course. They will then train Romanian and Ukrainian pilots.

The Netherlands has also set a goal of teaching Ukrainian personnel how to maintain F-16s. The Dutch government said in August that training had already begun in the U.K. and Denmark. The U.S. confirmed it started training Ukrainian military pilots on the F-16 in October.

The Dutch government in August also promised to provide Ukraine with F-16s, but insisted a number of conditions are met, including that enough Ukrainians are trained to operate the jet and that infrastructure at Ukrainian airfields is made suitable to operate the fighter.

The Netherlands is buying a total of 52 F-35 jets to replace its fleet of F-16s, with the planned last flight of the latter in 2024. The Netherlands in June 2022 ordered an additional six F-35s, with 33 of the aircraft delivered and operational as of September 2023.

The Netherlands said that, as of Nov. 3, it has supplied €2.1 billion (U.S. $2.3 billion) in military aid to Ukraine amid its fight against a Russian invasion.

Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.

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