Dutch F-16s may not reach Ukraine before end 2024

Ukraine may have to wait until the end of 2024 before it gets the first Dutch F-16 fighter jet. The majority of the Dutch fighter jets will only become available once the air force has fully switched to the new F-35s, and that may take until the end of next year, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense told NRC.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that the Netherlands, with Denmark, would provide F-16s for Ukraine’s war effort against the Russian invaders. On social media, Zelenskyy spoke of 42 fighter jets.

The Netherlands does indeed have 42 F-16s in its inventory, but none of them are immediately available, according to NRC. 24 are still in use at the 312 Squadron at Volkel Air Base for monitoring the Benelux airspace and NATO’s nuclear task. These jets can only go to Ukraine once the F-35s take over, the Defense spokesperson told NRC. According to the most recent progress report, 2024 is still “feasible” for this to happen.

In addition to the operational F-16s, the Netherlands has 18 of the jets in reserve. Twelve of these were supposed to be sold to the American company Draken International, but the sale fell through due to a dispute over the state of the jets’ maintenance. Defense is now investigating whether the two-seater jets could be used to train Ukrainian pilots in Denmark and Romania. And then there are six one-seater jets still promised to Draken as compensation for the previously failed deal.

On Friday, caretaker Defense Minister Kajsa Ollangren said that the delivery of F-16s to Ukraine can’t have any consequences for the Netherlands’ operational capacity. “We are in the transition to the F-35. We want to complete it as quickly as possible, and we follow the normal schedule.”

A spokesperson for the Minister told NRC that the transition to the F-35s could happen faster if training and other preconditions like logistical support go well. But he added that “we are not talking about days or weeks but about many months.” Dutch F-16s may not reach Ukraine before end 2024

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