Denmark’s government has said that Copenhagen has started a training program for Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16s, The Associated Press reported on Monday.
Troels Lund Poulsen, Denmark’s acting defense minister, said his country has “taken the step of starting a training and further education effort for the Ukrainian pilots.”
Lund Poulsen also announced that Denmark was pushing up its plans to retire its F-16s by two years. Denmark will now phase out its F-16s and replace them with F-35s by 2025 instead of 2027, potentially freeing them up for Ukraine. According to AP, Denmark ordered 27 F-35s to replace its fleet of 30 F-16s.
Denmark is expected to provide Ukraine with F-16s but hasn’t made a final decision. “We will also consider whether we should make a concrete donation to Ukraine of the Danish F-16 fighters, and how many there should be,” Lund Poulsen said.
He added that Ukrainian pilots will need to train on F-16s for six to eight months before the American jets can be provided to Kyiv. “This does not mean that you cannot make a decision beforehand. But (the F-16 planes) will be in Denmark until 2024,” he said.
Belgium and the Netherlands are also expected to provide Ukraine with F-16s and assist with training, but they also have not made a final decision. President Biden has signed off on the delivery of the jets to Ukraine from European countries, and the US has not ruled out sending its own F-16s.
Russian officials have warned strongly against the US and its allies providing Ukraine with Western-made aircraft, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently noting that F-16s are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. But the Biden administration has brushed off the warnings as it’s no longer as concerned about escalation as it was earlier in the conflict.