As the US prepares to transfer F-16 aircraft to Ukraine, the Defense Department’s commitment extends beyond initial training. 

With a pledge of $44.2bn since February 2022, the focus now shifts to providing 90 days’ worth of spare parts, a measure for sustaining Ukraine’s F-16 fleet.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is not only equipping Ukrainian pilots with F-16 aircraft but also ensuring these jets’ long-term operational capability. William A. LaPlante, the undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment, showed the Defense Department’s commitment.

“We’re working really hard with US industry and actually with the Europeans and other countries around the world to begin to coordinate these industry days with the Ukrainians,” he said.

While the focus has been on training Ukrainian pilots, the provision of spare parts is now taking centre stage. The DoD’s directive is clear: provide 90 days of spares for the F-16s sent to Ukraine. 

LaPlante continued to emphasize the importance of this policy, stating that without sufficient spares, the jets could be grounded in just a few months, a scenario the US is looking to prevent.

The significance of this commitment lies not only in the $44.2bn hardware and ammunition support but also in the planning for sustained operations. The F-16 aircraft, valued at nearly a billion dollars, will be accompanied by the necessary spare parts to ensure the Ukrainians have the resources to maintain and fly these advanced jets.

LaPlante disclosed ongoing efforts to coordinate with US industry and global partners, including European nations, to facilitate industry days with the Ukrainians. These daylong meetings aim to foster collaboration between industry and military representatives, addressing procurement issues and aiding Ukraine in rebuilding its defence capabilities.

Ukraine is set to receive F-16 aircraft as part of an initial operating capability from NATO allies starting in the spring of 2024, according to a press briefing following the 16th meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group. The US is leading in an ‘air capability coalition’ alongside Denmark and the Netherlands, shifting from their previous role of delivering F-16 fighters.

The Netherlands has stationed 5 F-16 fighter jets at Romania’s European F-16 Training Centre to enhance Ukraine’s air defence capabilities. Serving for training purposes, these aircraft will provide a refresher course for instructors and prepare Romanian and Ukrainian pilots for missions. 

Lockheed Martin will provide training and maintenance services. The European F-16 Training Centre’s opening signifies a joint commitment to enhancing regional defence capabilities, particularly in the context of Russia’s invasion in 2022.

As the US and its partners collaborate through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the focus is on the immediate transfer of assets and on empowering Ukraine to be self-sufficient in the long term. The DoD’s multifaceted approach reflects a commitment to more than just providing military hardware – it’s about building a defence infrastructure for Ukraine.