Netherlands Says Ukrainian Pilot Training on F-16s Could Start This Summer

The Netherlands and Denmark are leading a coalition to train Ukrainians on the American-made jets

The Netherlands’ defense minister told Reuters on Monday that training for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets could begin as soon as this summer.

Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said starting the training this summer is the “ambition” and that the coalition of countries working to arm Ukraine with F-16s will see if it’s a realistic timeline.

The Netherlands and Denmark are leading the US-backed coalition of countries that will provide Ukraine with F-16 support. President Biden signed off on European countries sending their F-16s to Ukraine last month, but there’s still a long way to go before the American aircraft make it to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week that he received a “powerful offer” on F-16s, but it’s still unclear how many Kyiv will receive. Ollongren said that a final decision on Ukraine’s request to receive dozens of F-16s from the Netherlands has not yet been made.

Estimates for how long the training for the Ukrainian pilots vary widely, from as little as four months, up to two years. Sources told Reuters that when the training begins, it will start with two groups of 12 Ukrainian pilots who are experienced at flying Soviet-made Mig fighter jets.

Ollongren said that the provision of F-16s is part of NATO’s long-term support for Ukraine. “It is a very strong weapons system. It’s a very strong capability. But it’s not going to be available anytime soon, and President Zelensky, of course, knows that,” Ollongren said.

Russia has warned strongly against NATO providing Ukraine with F-16s and other advanced jets. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that F-16s can carry nuclear weapons and warned the provision of the aircraft was a major escalation of US and NATO involvement in the war. 

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.