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Ukraine may receive F-16 as early as autumn

Ukraine will receive F-16 fighter jets from the Western coalition, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. President’s National Security Advisor, announced. Training of Ukrainian pilots is expected to begin soon, he added.

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At a recent meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, it was officially announced that the two countries would work towards forming a coalition, supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

The coalition includes the U.K., the U.S., the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. However, it is unlikely to expect a transfer of aircraft from the U.K. The Royal Air Force simply does not have F-16s. London declares responsibility for initial pilot training instead.

Ukraine, we’re not going anywhere.#G7

🇬🇧 🤝 🇺🇦

— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) May 20, 2023
The United States has stated that it will not hand over the aircraft. However, the United States’ role would be very significant nonetheless – in addition to approving to export, they are in charge of supplying the aircraft with armament and spare parts. These are major expenditures because, in most export contracts for the sale of aircraft, armament and spare parts alone account for roughly 50% of the entire price.

The decision to transfer F-16s was discussed at an official level in Denmark and the Netherlands. For these countries, the transfer of some of their F-16s to Ukraine does not pose a critical threat to defense capabilities, as they have already started to receive F-35s.

Taking only the F-16s of the Netherlands and Denmark into account, there is the potential for Ukraine to receive one or two squadrons from the Netherlands and one from Denmark which sums up to an amount in between 24 and 36 aircraft. This number could rise to 70 F-16s in the future when new F-35s arrive from the U.S. in those countries.

After the White House confirmed that the U.S. would train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s, and its allies admitted that they planned to provide Ukraine with the type of fighters, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday that the aircraft would appear in Ukrainian skies as early as this autumn.

Coming this fall!
The greatest air force blockbuster of all time!
F-16s in Ukraine's skies!
We shall defend our skies!

— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) May 20, 2023

The Netherlands has sold 12 of its recently decommissioned F-16s to Draken International, an air force training business. The contract with Draken, signed in 2021, does, however, offer an option for an additional 28 aircraft. In effect, this means that if the sale of such a large number of fighters would be canceled owing to the “greater urgency” induced by Russian action against Kyiv, more than 20 aircraft could be transferred to Ukraine.

The Danes, on the other hand, have over 40 F-16s in their air force, only around 30 of which are operational. So there is the option of giving over a dozen aircraft, and more in the future when the F-35s arrive.

Jake Sullivan, the U.S. President’s National Security Advisor, attends with Joe Biden the G7 summit in Japan.

Asked about earlier concerns by some in the administration that Ukraine might use F-16s to attack targets in Russia, leading to an escalation of the war, he replied that all the combat capabilities the U.S. provides to Ukraine are conditional on them not being used to attack Russian territory. The Ukrainians have assured that they are prepared to comply and are respecting this principle.

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