- Written by Yaroslav Lukiev
- BBC News
The United States has approved the transfer of US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands when Ukrainian pilots are fully trained to operate them.
“In this way, Ukraine can take full advantage of its new capabilities,” said a US State Department spokesperson.
Ukraine praised the decision, which it had been striving for since last year.
But it is expected to be months before Kiev can use the F-16s to try to counter Russian air superiority.
The Dutch are believed to have around two dozen operational F-16s which are slated to be retired and replaced by more advanced warplanes.
Denmark also plans to modernize its fleet of about 30 F-16s.
The United States and its allies had previously ruled out providing the F-16s to Ukraine, fearing it could lead to further escalation with a nuclear-armed Russia.
Russia — which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 — has yet to comment publicly on the issue.
A US State Department spokesman said Denmark and the Netherlands had received “formal confirmations” of the transfer of their F-16 multi-role fighter jets.
The spokesman added that this would happen “once the first group of pilots complete their training”.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra welcomed the US decision, saying that “this marks a significant milestone for Ukraine to defend its people and country.”
“Now we will discuss the topic further with our European partners,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Danish Defense Minister Jakob Elliman Jensen echoed his words.
“The government has said several times that a donation is the natural next step after training. We are discussing this with close allies,” he told the Danish news agency Ritzau.
In Ukraine, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov called the US decision “great news”.
“Our Army has proven itself to be full of fast learners. We will soon prove that victory for Ukraine is inevitable. Thank you to all our partners and friends in the United States, the Netherlands and Denmark. Onward to victory!” Books on X.
An 11-member alliance of Ukraine’s western allies is due to start training Ukrainian pilots later this month and should be ready next year.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat admitted that Kiev will not be able to operate the F-16s in the coming fall and winter.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is widely considered one of the most reliable combat aircraft in the world.
It can be armed with precision-guided missiles and bombs and is capable of flying at 1,500 mph (2,400 kph), according to the US Air Force.
The targeting capabilities of the F-16 will allow Ukraine to attack Russian forces in all weather conditions and at night with greater accuracy.
Ukraine is believed to have dozens of fighter jets – mostly MiGs – all dating back to the Soviet era, and Russia currently outpace the country in the air.
Kiev needs modern warplanes to help protect its airspace from deadly Russian missile and drone attacks, as well as to support its counter-offensive in southern and eastern Ukraine that has so far yielded limited results.
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