The Netherlands is planning to deliver its first F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine at some point in 2024, the country’s defense minister, Kajsa Ollongren, said Tuesday.
Before the jets can be delivered, pilots, crew and technicians all have to be trained to fly and fight in the jets, Ollengren said during an interview with MSNBC. She did not give an exact answer on how long the training would last, but estimated it would be between six and eight months.
“These things do take time,” Ollengren said. “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.”
The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway all announced that they would provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, following approval from the U.S. allowing Ukrainian pilots to be trained. The move was hailed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who spent months pressing the West to provide his forces with modern jets to repel Moscow’s full-scale invasion.
Ollongren said Tuesday the Netherlands is transitioning to F-35s, which is why it is finally able to give Ukraine the F-16s. And while the F-16s alone will not “make Ukraine win the war,” they will help Ukraine’s air defense.
“It’s an excellent weapons system,” she said. “That’s why it is so important that they do get it.”
Ollengren also said a training center for pilots should be up and running in Romania “as soon as possible.”
Denmark started training eight Ukrainian pilots to fly the jets in August, while the United States said training for Ukrainian pilots would start in October, after the pilots have received English language training.