The Netherlands announced that it is preparing to transfer 18 F-16 fighters to Ukraine but has not announced a specific delivery time.
“Today I informed President Zelensky about the Dutch government’s decision to prepare to transfer the first 18 F-16 fighters to Ukraine,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on December 22.
According to Mr. Rutte, providing F-16s is “one of the most important elements of the signed military aid agreements for Ukraine.” However, it is unclear when the Netherlands will transfer F-16s to Ukraine.
“In addition to the export license, a number of other criteria must be met before handing over the fighter, including personnel and infrastructure requirements,” Mr. Rutte said.
On the same day, President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed that the Netherlands began preparing 18 F-16 fighters to deliver to Ukraine. “We discussed developments on the front lines, the situation in the Black Sea and Ukraine’s current military needs, including artillery, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and air defense systems,” he said. Zelensky mentioned the phone call with Prime Minister Rutte.
Ukraine has repeatedly asked the West to provide US-made F-16 fighter aid to improve the air force’s capabilities. After months of hesitation, in May, the US announced its support for European countries to provide F-16 aid to Ukraine.
In addition to the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium, they were also committed to delivering F-16s to Ukraine. Danish officials said the first batch of 6 F-16s will be delivered to Ukraine this year, the next 8 in 2024 and 5 in 2025.
Belgium said in October that it would transfer F-16s to Ukraine but did not specify a specific number and said the speed would depend on the process by which Brussels replaced this aircraft model with the F-35 stealth fighter.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on November 1 that the country’s air defense brought down 37 Ukrainian aircraft in October. Mr. Shoigu commented that this number is nearly double the number of F-16s that the West pledged to transfer to Ukraine, claiming that Russia could “disable all of these fighters in 20 days if the current shoot-down rate is maintained.”
The F-16 multirole fighter has been developed by General Dynamics since the 1970s and is used by the US and its allies. Each F-16 costs about 30-35 million USD, depending on the variant, but customers can pay more or less based on the number of orders, economic-political conditions and other factors.
The F-16 can reach a maximum speed of 2,121 km/h at an altitude of 12,000 m and a maximum flight ceiling of 18,000 m with a range of 546 km. The F-16 is equipped with a 6-barrel 20 mm cannon and 11 pylons that can carry 7.7 tons of weapons.