Ukrainians will quickly begin training on F-16s, says Dutch foreign minister
Ukrainian fighter pilots will begin training to fly F-16 fighter jets very soon, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra predicted. He was asked about the matter when he arrived for meetings with his European Union counterparts in Brussels on Monday. He would not specify a date or period when the training will begin, but said that earlier decisions about military support were also frequently implemented "very quickly."
The pilot training will take place in Europe, the U.S. said. Hoekstra refused to comment about if this will happen in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is working together with Denmark, Norway, Belgium and others, and the minister did not want to disrupt the cooperation by making any announcements prematurely. Hoekstra also would not say if Dutch F-16s will be used, or if Dutch instructors will participate.
Hoekstra is "not going to express in days, weeks or months" when the first Ukrainian pilots can start. "But it has been the case every time, after we landed on a decision in principle, that we usually fleshed out the operational side very quickly." This was previously the case with the delivery of, for example, heavy artillery such as the armored howitzers.
"And rightly so,” he said, because every hour counts. Those earlier decisions were invariably developed over a long period of time, with preparations often underway simultaneously.
Last weekend, the U.S. agreed to allow Ukrainian pilots to train on F-16s, which are produced in the United States. The country where military products are manufactured typically have final say over who is allowed to use them.
Ukraine has been pressing for access to more modern fighter jets for months so as not to lose battles for aerial control over their country. The United States has been hesitant on the issue, even though some allies, including the Netherlands, advocated to at least get started with pilot training much sooner.
Reporting by ANP