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F-16s for Ukraine: Who will deliver first jets and when

F-16s for Ukraine: Who will deliver first jets and when Photo: Ukraine is to receive F-16s in the summer of 2024 (Getty Images)

Ukraine is preparing to receive Western F-16 fighter jets. The allies promise to deliver the first aircraft this summer. Meanwhile, Ukrainian pilots continue their training, which will also determine the start of combat missions in the air.

Read more about which countries have announced the transfer of F-16s to protect Ukrainian skies and when to expect them in RBC-Ukraine's article.


Fighter jet coalition

Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukraine has repeatedly asked its allies to provide combat aircraft to protect it from Russian attacks. In August 2023, the Netherlands and Denmark launched an aviation coalition to provide modern F-16 fighters to the Ukrainian Defense Forces.

Other countries have joined the coalition: Belgium, Canada, Czechia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Among these countries, some have agreed to provide only logistical support and training at their air bases and those that will directly donate aircraft.

However, the total number of fighters and all the supplier countries are not disclosed. The announced information suggests that it could be between 45 and 60 combat aircraft in the short term.

A prerequisite for Ukraine to receive Western aircraft is that pilots and maintenance personnel undergo appropriate training and the necessary infrastructure is prepared. Preparations and training have been underway since last year.

F-16s for Ukraine: Who will deliver first jets and when

Photo: F-16 fighter jet (Getty Images)

The aviation coalition envisages not only the transfer of F-16 fighters. Ukraine may receive other types of combat aircraft from its partners.

In particular, Sweden will provide 2 Saab 340 AEW (ACS 890) long-range reconnaissance aircraft, and France has announced its intention to supply up to 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighters to the Ukrainian Air Force.

Countries which promised to deliver F-16s to Ukraine and when


Denmark may provide 19 F-16s to Ukraine. These fighters were modernized in the 2000s under the Mid-Life Update (MLU) program: they underwent major repairs and received a more modern AN/APG-66(V)2 radar.

In August 2023, Ukrainian pilots began training on Danish aircraft at the Skridstrup air base. The training was organized for 8 pilots and 65 support personnel.

Danish aircraft may appear in Ukraine in the summer of 2024. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the start of deliveries in the coming months in May 2024.


As part of a coalition of fighter jets, the Netherlands has agreed to provide Ukraine with at least 24 F-16s.

The country also initiated the creation of the European F-16 Training Center (EFTC) for Ukrainian pilots in Romania. Currently, the EFTC has been provided with 11 F-16s for training by the Netherlands.

Deliveries to Ukraine will begin immediately after the Danish F-16s. Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren emphasized that deliveries will be in full swing starting in the summer.

"So, as from this summer, I expect that the first F-16s will actually be delivered to Ukraine, and from there on, in a constant flow, by increasing the number and strengthening the Ukrainian Air Force...I cannot be exact. That's why I say this summer, and that is the path that we are on now. Denmark will be the first country to provide airframes and we will follow after Denmark, but it's a joint effort," Kajsa Ollongren said in an interview with European Pravda.


The Security Assurances Agreement between Ukraine and Belgium provides for the delivery of 30 F-16s, but the full number of fighters will be delivered by 2028. The planes will be retired from the Belgian Air Force after the fifth generation F-35A fighters are delivered.

Initially, the Belgians announced the start of the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine next year, but later the deadline was pushed back. Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said that the first batch of aircraft would arrive by the end of 2024.


As part of the aviation coalition, Norway is preparing to send 22 F-16 aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force. Among them are both modernized with the latest weapons and fighters for spare parts.

According to the Norwegian news agency Nettavisen, 12 aircraft may be fully operational. The rest will be used as a donor of spare parts to repair and maintain other F-16s.

As noted by Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth, the upgraded fighters will have longer-range strike capabilities with appropriate weapons to fight behind the front line. The exact timeframe for receiving the planes from Norway has not been made public.

In addition to the F-16s themselves, Ukraine may also receive jet engines for the fighters, auxiliary materials, simulators, spare parts, and other equipment from Norway.

The United States

The United States, as the manufacturer of the F-16, has the right to approve the transfer of these aircraft to other countries. The country's leader, Joe Biden, granted such permission in the summer of 2023, which launched an aviation coalition in support of Ukraine.

As part of this coalition, the United States does not transfer its own aircraft, but since 2023 has been training Ukrainian pilots at bases in Arizona and Texas.

At the same time, during the signing of security guarantees between Ukraine and the United States on June 15, 2024, it became known that the bilateral agreement contains a clause on support for the Ukrainian Air Force. In particular, it refers to the purchase by the United States (mainly through an allied consortium) of squadrons of modern fighter jets for Ukraine.

"The agreement has good provisions on weapons. Very specifically on Patriot systems, and on the supply of combat squadrons to Ukraine. I made no mistake, it is squadrons that include F-16s but are not limited to them," says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy following the signing of the security agreement with the United States.

Ukraine's preparation to receive aircraft

Training of aviators is one of the main conditions for the transfer of F-16 fighters to Ukraine. The training process consists of several stages: ground training; training on light aircraft; and training on F-16s.

Since last year, Ukrainian pilots have been training at training centers in several countries. In addition to pilots, engineers, and mechanics who will maintain these aircraft are also being trained.

F-16s for Ukraine: Who will deliver first jets and whenPhoto: Ukrainian pilots continue training (Getty Images)

According to Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Illia Yevlash, one of the groups of pilots is currently in the final stages.

"We are waiting for the final stages of training of our pilots, who have already worked the required number of hours," he said on June 17. Earlier, Yevlash said that the first maintenance specialists were returning to Ukraine from training.

At the same time, Western media reports that 30 more Ukrainian pilots are ready to start training, but there are not enough available places in the United States and other training centers. Politico notes that Ukrainian officials have asked the United States and European countries to step up training for aviators.

In addition to training pilots and personnel, infrastructure preparation is an important step.

Russia is already trying to prevent the transfer of the F-16s by attacking Ukrainian airfields, which has become more frequent recently. However, Illia Yevlash noted that Ukraine is taking all the necessary measures to secure the fighters and deploy them in the country.

It is expected that some of the F-16s transferred by Western partners will be based abroad in pilot and aviation personnel training centers.

In addition, the Chief of Aviation of the Ukrainian Air Force Command, Serhii Holubtsov, explains that foreign basing is necessary for a reserve in case of malfunction or the need for maintenance. Such a safety net will allow more F-16s to be kept in service, as Ukrainian airfields will become a priority target.

F-16s importance and how many Ukraine needs

According to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine needs 120-130 modern aircraft in addition to the existing ones to confront Russia in the skies.

Zelenskyy says in an interview with AFP that they may be different, but they should be as modern as possible, and there should be a fleet with a clear number of aircraft. He notes that Ukraine needs 120-130 planes to defend the sky against 300 Russian aircraft.

Earlier, in a commentary to RBC-Ukraine, expert Oleksandr Musiienko suggested that if the delivery plans are met in 2026-2027, the allies could transfer about 130 aircraft. In this case, Ukrainian pilots will have complete air superiority. According to him, by the end of this year, our country may receive up to 14 units.

F-16s for Ukraine: Who will deliver first jets and whenPhoto: Up to 130 aircraft will provide air superiority (Getty Images)

F-16 fighters in the Ukrainian sky are supposed to strengthen air defense by being able to shoot down Russian missiles and drones.

In addition, the aircraft has been successfully used in close air support and to assist ground forces in offensive operations.

These fighters are also capable of effectively countering enemy aircraft in air combat.

Western military analysts say that Ukraine has begun to prepare the ground for future strikes after the arrival of the F-16s. This is evidenced by Ukraine's strikes on the Crimean peninsula, especially against Russian ground-based air defense systems.

For more information on how Ukraine manages to destroy Russian air defense systems and why this may be related to the preparation for the use of Western F-16 fighters, see an RBC-Ukraine article.

Sources: President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force of Ukraine Illia Yevlash, an interview with Chief of Aviation of the Ukrainian Air Force Command Serhii Holubtsov with Radio Liberty, an interview with the head of the Dutch Ministry of Defense Kajsa Ollongren with European Pravda, Politico, Business Insider, Nettavisen, and Militarnyi.