September 29, 2023

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The Netherlands and Denmark confirm their plans to supply the first F-16s to Kiev

The Netherlands and Denmark confirm their plans to supply the first F-16s to Kiev

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, after visiting the two countries, confirmed that the Netherlands and Denmark have confirmed plans to supply Kiev with more than 40 F-16 multi-purpose combat aircraft.

But the first transfers of US-made aircraft that Kiev has long demanded are likely to involve a lengthy pilot training process, meaning they will not arrive in time to help Ukraine during a difficult summer counteroffensive that has made only moderate gains since its inception. in June.

The announced transfers, approved by Washington on Friday, mark the first time that Ukraine’s Western allies have provided NATO-class aircraft to Kiev. Slovakia and Poland gave Ukraine their fleets of Soviet aircraft.

“The F-16s will definitely give new energy, confidence and motivation to our fighters and civilians,” Zelensky said during a press conference Sunday at a military air base in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven.

“We will use these planes to drive Russian terrorists out of Ukrainian cities and villages,” said Zelensky, standing next to Mark Rutte, the outgoing Dutch prime minister, referring to a Russian missile attack Saturday on a theater in central Chernihiv, north of Kiev. . Seven people were killed and more than 100 injured.

Zelensky said in a separate post on social media platform X that his country will receive 42 of the aircraft retired by the Netherlands. Rutte said his country has that amount in stock, but he refused to say exactly how much would be delivered to Kiev. He said that “about 15” needed training.

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“We need planes to help us train,” said a Dutch government spokesman. “We are looking at whether we can supply the remaining aircraft but we have to see even if they can be upgraded.”

During a press conference with Zelensky at Skredstrup Air Base in Denmark, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said her country would donate 19 F-16s, which was confirmed by the Ukrainian president on social media.

Denmark, which owns 43 F-16s, said deliveries would take place “gradually” as the Scandinavian country transitions to the newer F-35s. The Netherlands is also buying a fleet of F-35s.

“Denmark will do everything it can to expand the alliance so that more countries can help deliver the F-16s that Ukraine needs to bolster its air defense,” said Foreign Minister Lars L√łkke Rasmussen.

Zelensky will spend Sunday night in Denmark before addressing the country’s parliament and meeting Queen Margrethe on Monday.

Frederiksen said the first six F-16s should be delivered by the end of this year, another eight in 2024 and the remaining five in 2025. It was not immediately clear when the Dutch planes would arrive in Ukraine.

Danish officials said one of the conditions of the donation was that Ukraine used the planes only for self-defence, not to attack Russia.

Ukraine began claiming Western fighter jets shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Ukraine’s powerful air defense systems, made up of a depleted Soviet arsenal and NATO-class surface-to-air missiles, prevented Russia’s massive air force from achieving air dominance.

But Ukrainian pilots complained that their old Soviet fleet could not provide adequate cover for the infantry because the latest generation Russian fighter jets equipped with radars and long-range missiles are able to fire at them and ground positions from safe distances.

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Additional reporting by Alice Hancock in Brussels