In a strategic move, the Netherlands has stationed five of its F-16 fighter jets at the European F-16 Training Centre in Romania, marking a development in the ongoing efforts to bolster Ukraine’s air defence capabilities.
These aircraft, designated for training purposes, will not only offer a refresher course for instructors but also prepare Romanian and Ukrainian pilots for missions.
Since November 7, five Dutch F-16 fighter jets have found a new home at the European F-16 Training Centre (EFTC) in Romania. These aircraft are a testament to the international collaboration to enhance Ukraine’s military readiness.
The Netherlands has taken a role in establishing the EFTC and is committed to contributing by providing 12 to 18 F-16s for training purposes. These jets, while stationed in Romania, will continue to be under Dutch ownership, a unique arrangement aimed at strengthening their presence in Europe.
According to GlobalData’s “The Netherlands Defense Market 2023-2028” report, the Netherlands Air Force has procured 24 of the F-16A/B multirole aircraft between 1979-1992.
In a unified effort, the Netherlands, Denmark, and, with the support of the United States, have taken the lead in coordinating European initiatives to provide Ukraine with F-16 capabilities. This collaborative approach signifies a joint commitment to improving the security and defence infrastructure in the region.
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Ukrainian pilots have faced a tight deadline for English language training as they prepare to learn to operate F-16 fighter jets in October. In late September, the US Department of Defense disclosed that English language training had commenced for several pilots, with plans for them to engage in pilot training shortly.
Ukraine is poised to receive F-16 aircraft as part of an initial operating capability from NATO allies starting in the spring of 2024 as they continue to confront Russian forces in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion in 2022. The announcement came after the 16th meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group, comprising 50 nations supporting Ukraine’s ongoing war efforts.
The Soviet history of Romania, its geographic location on the Black Sea and neighbouring Ukraine, and its staunch commitment to NATO can put Romania in Putin’s sights, GlobalData’s “Romania Defense Market 2023-2028” report highlights.
Notably, Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defence company, has been selected to provide training and maintenance services for these fighter jets. This partnership ensures that the F-16s remain in optimal condition for training purposes and eventual deployment.
The initial phase of the training centre’s operations will begin with a refresher course for the hired F-16 instructors. Subsequently, the focus will shift towards training Romanian and Ukrainian pilots, equipping them with the skills and knowledge required for their roles. Importantly, all training sorties will take place within NATO airspace.
The ceremonial opening of the European F-16 Training Centre in Romania is set to solidify the commitment of multiple nations to the cause of enhancing the defence capabilities of Ukraine. As the Netherlands positions its F-16s in Europe, it sends a message about supporting the security and sovereignty of nations in the region.