The Dutch military recently made a significant move by donating five F-16 fighter jets to a new pilot training center in Romania. The purpose of this center is to train Ukrainian pilots in flying the American-made warplane. According to the Netherlands’ Defense Ministry, the F-16s have arrived at the European F-16 Training Centre (EFTC) in Borcea, Romania. The Dutch military also stated that the aircraft would only be flown in NATO airspace.
The training center was planned during NATO’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania earlier in the year, and it is supported by a coalition of 11 Western states. The primary objective is to provide F-16 capabilities to Ukraine. American arms giant Lockheed Martin, the current manufacturer of the F-16, is also involved in the project and will assist in the maintenance of the fighter jets.
The Dutch military also announced its plan to make 12 to 18 F-16s available for training purposes, although they will remain the property of the Netherlands. However, Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren revealed that the country would transfer some of its own F-16s to Ukrainian forces next year, after the pilots complete their training.
Denmark and Norway have also indicated their intention to donate F-16s to Ukraine. Denmark expressed its willingness to send 19 of its 43 F-16s to Ukraine, while Norway suggested it would provide fewer than ten. As of August, Denmark had already begun training eight Ukrainian pilots on the plane at a local air base. Belgium has also committed to supplying F-16s to Ukraine at a later date.
In a recent interview, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky mentioned that his country had secured agreements to obtain up to 60 F-16s from Western backers. He emphasized that Ukraine requires around 160 jets to have a powerful air force that can prevent Russia from dominating the airspace. However, Moscow has dismissed these claims, with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stating that Kiev’s future F-16 fleet could be destroyed in roughly 20 days of work. Russia has consistently condemned Western arms shipments to Ukraine, asserting that the weapons will do little to deter its military objectives and will only prolong the conflict.
The decision to establish a European F-16 Training Centre in Romania and provide F-16 capabilities to Ukraine underscores the ongoing support provided by Western countries to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities. In the midst of geopolitical tensions and military confrontations, this initiative could potentially alter the dynamics of the region and impact the ongoing conflict.