By Simon Lee
Ukraine has submitted a formal request to The Netherlands calling for it to donate its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets to aid the fight against Russia. This was confirmed by Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren, the Dutch Defence Minister, on February 9, who said there were also several obstacles in the way.
She said: “We need to discuss the availability of F-16s with the Americans and other allies. And we have to look seriously at the consequences, it can’t just happen overnight. We have to be honest about that. “We take the request very seriously, but the issue of fighter jets is not so easily resolved.” She added: “Personnel must undergo appropriate training before the Ukrainian military can use F-16s. “Because the aircraft is a US defence system, so it needs permission from the US government.”
The request follows a direct plea to Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte from a senior member of one of his government’s coalition partners.
On February 8, Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma, the foreign affairs spokesman of the D66 Party, said: “Today we ask the Dutch prime minister: To take the lead in establishing a fighter jet coalition for Ukraine; To donate Dutch F-16s to Ukraine; To start training Ukrainian pilots in modern fighter jets right away.”
The Royal Netherlands Air Force recently flew 11 F-16AM/BMs to Charleroi, the home of Belgian Aeropace during December and January. All the aircraft have been deemed surplus to requirements, now the Dutch F-16 training carried out at Tucson in Arizona has finished.
With the RNLAF acquiring Lockheed Martin F-35As, these aircraft and the other 24 F-16s currently in service until next year, will be grounded. Several meetings have taken place between the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Lockheed Martin (which has developed and manufactured the F-16), Airbus Netherlands (provide aircraft support) and Draken (training pilots and ground personnel) in recent weeks, the most recent being on January 27 to figure out a way of handing the aircraft to the Ukraine. Current thinking is that a training unit will be set up in Romania, for the personnel involved which will include former MiG and Sukhoi pilots before F-16s are delivered.
While Joe Biden might have rejected the call to send F-16s to Ukraine, Lockheed Martin were surely given the green light by the Department of Defense to work out a way forward with the Dutch.