A facility to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets was officially opened in Romania on Monday as NATO countries are working to get the US-made warplanes to the battlefield in Ukraine.
“The center will be an international hub for the training of F-16 pilots and will facilitate increased interoperability among allies,” the Romanian Defense Ministry said, according to POLITICO.
Ukrainian pilots started training on F-16s elsewhere in Europe earlier this year. The Pentagon said in October that training had also started at a US Air National Guard Base in Arizona.
The first batch of Ukrainian pilots is not expected to complete their training until next year. So far, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway have all said they’re willing to supply Ukraine with F-16s when the training is completed. Denmark has said the first jets should be sent by April 2024.
The Netherlands sent five of its F-16s to the training center in Romania earlier this month. “The training center in Romania will first use the aircraft to provide a refresher course for the hired F-16 instructors, after which training will be provided to the Romanian and Ukrainian pilots. The aircraft will only be flown in NATO airspace,” the Dutch government said.
The opening of the training center comes amid signs that Ukraine might struggle to maintain Western support for its war with Russia. A recent report from NBC News said the US has finally broached the idea of peace talks with Ukraine after over a year and a half of discouraging negotiations.