Netherlands to start training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s in the summer
The Netherlands is working with Denmark and the United States to start F-16 training for Ukrainian pilots this summer, Defense Minister Kajsa Ollogren announced after a meeting with the Ukraine Defense Contact Group - a group of about 50 countries that support Ukraine with military equipment and other things.
“I welcome the support on the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. Denmark and the Netherlands will work with the United States and other partners to start training this summer,” the Dutch Defense Minister wrote on Twitter.
Ollongren spoke with the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin. Austin also met with Denmark’s Minister of Defense that same day. They made the announcement offer the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting a day later.
The Netherlands and Denmark volunteered to provide the F-16 training for Ukrainian forces. In the coming weeks, the three countries and other allies will develop a training framework, Austin said. “Norway, Belgium, Portugal, and Poland have already offered to contribute to training, and we expect more countries to join this important initiative soon.”
According to Onno Eichelsheim, the Commander of the Dutch Armed Forces, the training will start with about a dozen pilots, with more Ukrainians following later. “You can’t start very big. You have to see what you are working with first,” Eichelsheim said on the television program Op1.
Ukraine will choose who to send to the training. According to Eichelsheim, they’ll probably be pilots already trained to operate MiG fighter planes from the former Soviet Union. “So there’s definitely quality in these men, and possibly women as well.”
Both Eichelsheim and Austin stressed that it would take time for the Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16s well enough to actually use them in the fight against the Russian invaders. “There are still quite a lot of elements that need to be given a place,” the commander of the Dutch army said.
The pilots will be trained to fly, maintain, arm, and sustain the F-16 jets. Austin called it “an important example of our long-term commitment to Ukraine security.”