In a boost for the embattled nation that is growing increasingly anxious about aid from its Western allies, the Netherlands will deliver 18 US-made F-16 combat jets promised to Ukraine, amid mounting challenges faced by Kyiv.
The commitment to provide up to 61 jets, subject to Ukrainian pilot training was jointly announced by Denmark and the Netherlands in August, with approval from the United States.
“Today I informed President Zelenskiy of our government’s decision to prepare an initial 18 F-16 fighter aircraft for delivery to Ukraine,” caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a post on social media platform X.
“The delivery of F-16s is one of the most important elements of the agreements made on military support for Ukraine.”
: I spoke with President @ZelenskyyUa again this morning. Naturally, we discussed the European Council’s important decision last week to launch accession negotiations with Ukraine. I’m impressed with Ukraine’s progress so far, and the Netherlands stands ready to help Ukraine as…
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) December 22, 2023
The delivery of the fighter jets is still pending on an export permit by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the fulfilment of criteria for staff and infrastructure in Ukraine, Rutte added without giving a timeline for these decisions.
But the announcement made it possible to reserve funds and people to prepare the planes for delivery, the government said.
“I spoke with Mark Rutte to thank the Dutch government for its decision to start preparing the initial 18 F-16 jets for their delivery to Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy said on X.
The Netherlands sent its first US-made F-16s to a new training facility for Ukrainian pilots and staff in Romania last month.
Last month, Romania inaugurated an international training hub for F-16 jet pilots from allied countries and other partners, including Ukraine. The training facility at an air base in southeast Romania will aim to increase interoperability between NATO allies, and better position the military alliance “to face the complex challenges” in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region, Romania’s defense ministry said.
Romania said at the time that the powerful U.S.-made warplanes would be supplied by the Dutch air force while the aircraft maker Lockheed Martin would provide instructors and maintenance at the training center.
The Dutch government said Friday it still has to decide whether to grant an export permit for the planes “to prevent undesirable end use.” The foreign ministry will make the assessment based on European Union weapon export rules.
Ukrainian pilots must have completed F-16 training before the jets can be delivered and infrastructure in Ukraine also must be prepared for the planes, the government added.
With inputs from Reuters.