Eleven nations form coalition to train the Ukrainian Air Force pilots to fly the F-16

U.S. Air Force photo

During the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 11, 2023, eleven partner states signed a Memorandum outlining the terms of a coalition, spearheaded by Denmark and the Netherlands, to train the Ukrainian Air Force to fly the F-16.  

Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, expressed his gratitude to colleagues from Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  

“F-16s will protect Ukraine’s skies and NATO’s Eastern Flank,” Reznikov commented. “The Ukrainian Air Force is prepared to master them as quickly as possible.” 

France seems to be absent from the coalition, despite French President Emmanuel Macron announcing that he had “opened the door to train pilots” for Ukraine on May 15, 2023, a day after his discussions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. AeroTime has sent a request for comment to the French military. 

Under the agreement, Ukrainian pilots, technicians and support staff will have the opportunity to participate in specialized training, allowing them to gain proficiency in operating the F-16 fighter jets. Moreover, the Memorandum highlights the possibility of incorporating other types of fighter aircraft into the training program, further diversifying Ukraine’s military capabilities. 

Denmark has been selected as the initial training location for Ukrainian personnel, until construction is completed on a dedicated training center in Romania. The training is expected to start in late summer, according to the Danish Ministry of Defense. 

“The first step is to train the Ukrainians to be able to fly, service and maintain F-16 aircraft at a basic tactical and technical level,” said Denmark’s Acting Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen. “Ukraine needs planes. […] The question of possible donation must follow. It will require support from several countries.” 

In late June 2023, the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF), known as the Flyvevåbnet, announced that it would retire its fleet of F-16 fighter jets from service as early as 2024 or 2025, contrary to an existing plan to keep them operational until 2027. These 33 aircraft will be redirected toward the coalition’s effort to provide F-16 fighters to Ukraine.  

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