Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram sits in an F-16 aircraft at Bodo Airport, Norway, on January 3, 2024. These aircraft are to be sent to Denmark to train Ukrainian pilots there. JAN LANGHAUG / AFP
“The F-16s are here! » For a few hours, on December 22, 2023, the rumor spread on social networks. The Ukrainian Air Force had just shot down three Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers in a single day in the south of the country, in the Kherson region. An unprecedented feat since the start of the war that could only have been achieved with the Western aircraft promised for Kiev, some pro-Ukrainian reports estimated… before becoming disillusioned by the lack of evidence.
Although there is no image or statement to support this rumor – currently the hypothesis is of missiles fired from a Patriot anti-aircraft battery – its circulation shows the impatience with which Ukrainians are waiting for their first F-16s. Although designed in the 1970s, the so-called fourth-generation American fighter would allow the Russian grip on the front line to be loosened, it is estimated in Kiev.
The range of their radar is much greater than that of the Soviet-origin aircraft that Ukraine currently has (mainly Mig-29 and Su-25 or Su-27), and the quality of their air-to-air missiles would de facto repel enemy helicopters and aircraft and prevents them from bombing Ukrainian ground forces as they are currently doing.
Four countries have committed to supplying equipment
So far, four countries have committed to sending F-16s to Ukraine: Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. They all have old specimens or ones that have already been removed from their arsenal but whose maximum number of flight hours has not yet been reached. The West is still unclear about the number of devices to be delivered, but it could be 60, according to military circles.
The Netherlands has already transferred five of them to Romania after removing the country's roundels from their hulls. In August 2023, Denmark had also committed to delivering the first six examples – of nineteen promised – around the new year, but the Danish Defense Ministry said on Saturday, January 6, that they would ultimately only be delivered in the second quarter of 2024.
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Progress is particularly being made in the training of pilots and ground teams – at least a dozen technicians are required for each aircraft. On January 2, Norway announced the deployment of two two-seat F-16s to Skrydstrup Air Base in Denmark to train Ukrainian airmen. Ten trainers accompany you. On January 4, Belgium assured that it would also send two examples of the American light attack aircraft and around fifty men to Denmark between March and September to continue training the Ukrainians there.
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