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18 Aug, 2023 10:36

NATO nations cleared by US to send F-16s to Ukraine – ministers

Ukrainian officials recently admitted they would not receive the planes until 2024
NATO nations cleared by US to send F-16s to Ukraine – ministers

Denmark and the Netherlands have received the green light from the US to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, senior officials in both countries have confirmed. Kiev has been requesting the US-made warplanes for months.

Speaking to Danmarks Radio on Friday, Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen revealed that he and Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen had “received a friendly letter from the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, which gives us certain options for action.” 

When asked if Denmark would now send F-16s to Ukraine, Rasmussen explained that Washington’s approval means that “a barrier to being able to do so is no longer there,” and that Copenhagen is discussing future steps in this direction with its allies.

US approval was also confirmed by Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra. Writing on X (formerly Twitter), he said the Netherlands “welcomes Washington’s decision to pave the way for sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.” Hoekstra claimed the move “marks a major milestone” for Kiev in the conflict with Russia, and said his country will discuss the matter with its European partners.

The remarks follow a Reuters report which cited Blinken’s letter as stating that the two NATO countries could send the jets as soon as “the first set of pilots complete their training.” At present, Denmark has 43 F-16s, around 30 of which are serviceable, while the Netherlands has 24 operational aircraft of this type.

Ukraine has been requesting F-16s from its Western backers for months, arguing that they would help to counter Russia’s air superiority. While Kiev has not yet received modern jets, the UK and the Netherlands announced an “international coalition” in May to help Ukraine procure F-16s and train the country’s pilots. The group now consists of 11 countries.

However, according to media reports, efforts to instruct Ukrainian pilots have been hampered by delays in the transfer of flight manuals and simulators, with the language barrier also causing problems. Against this backdrop, Ukrainian officials have said they do not expect to receive F-16s until 2024.

Ukrainian requests for the warplanes also come during its much-touted counteroffensive against Russia, which has so far failed to gain any ground, according to Moscow. Ukrainian officials have attempted to explain the slow progress by pointing to Russia’s advantage in the air.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the West against providing Ukraine with F-16s, saying they “will burn” just like other Western-supplied weaponry. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has cautioned that the planes could escalate hostilities as they can potentially carry nuclear weapons.