Ukraine to Get Coveted F-16s

US had backed transfer once pilots are trained
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2023 12:20 PM CDT
Netherlands, Denmark Come Through on F-16s
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte talk as they walk toward a press conference in Eindhoven, Netherlands, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

President Volodymyr Zelensky has long been calling for Western nations to supply his armed forces with F-16 fighter jets, a plea that has become more urgent as Russian air dominance has slowed Ukraine's counteroffensive. On Sunday, Zelensky visited the Netherlands and Denmark to receive the promise of the fighters from the two nations, CNN reports. "F16 will certainly give new energy, confidence, and motivation to fighters and civilians," Zelensky said after what he called an historic announcement. "I'm sure it will deliver new results for Ukraine and the entire Europe."

The US has given its approval for the donation to be made once Ukrainian pilots are trained on the jets. That will take months. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte did not commit to a number; he said that his nation has 42 F-16s now and that pilot training will begin soon. Zelensky praised the Netherlands for being the first nation to agree to supply the aircraft. "They will be in the Ukrainian sky," he posted on Telegram. "I am very grateful." The jets also will bolster Ukraine's air defenses against Russian missile attacks, per the New York Times.

Rutte said the jets will not be of immediate help, per the AP. "We want them to be active and operational as soon as possible," he said. "Not for the next month, that's impossible, but hopefully soon afterward." Zelensky also went to Denmark, the second donor of the American-made fighters, to meet with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and the royal family. The Ukrainian leader also was in Sweden over the weekend lobbying for the Gripen fighter jets made in that country. Sweden has said it will let Ukrainian pilots test the aircraft, per the Times. (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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