The coalition plans to start training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s in August in Denmark | Pool photo by Axel Heimken via AFP/Getty Images
The Netherlands and Denmark confirmed Friday they received approval from the U.S. to hand over F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine as soon as pilot training is complete.
Ministers from both countries, the leaders of an international coalition to help Ukraine obtain the jets, thanked Washington for the green light, although it remains unclear when any F-16 transfers will take place.
Outgoing Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said she welcomed the U.S. decision “to clear the way for delivery of F-16 jets to Ukraine,” which would allow the coalition “to follow through on the training of Ukrainian pilots.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in May said the Netherlands was seriously considering providing Ukraine with F-16s, as it is currently phasing out the fighter jets from its own armed forces. However, Ollongren did not want to specify how many F-16s will go to Ukraine.
Washington’s decision was reported on Thursday by POLITICO, with two U.S. officials saying that Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent letters to his Danish and Dutch counterparts assuring them that the requests would be approved.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra called the move “a major milestone for Ukraine to defend its people and its country.”
“Many thanks to Secretary Blinken for the good and swift cooperation. Now, we will further discuss the subject with our European partners,” Hoekstra said on social media.
Denmark also said providing Ukraine with the jets would now be discussed.
“The government has said several times that a donation is a natural next step after training. We are discussing it with close allies, and I expect we will soon be able to be more concrete about that,” Danish Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen told news agency Ritzau on Friday.
A coalition of 11 nations, led by Denmark and the Netherlands, agreed during a NATO summit in July to train Ukrainians to fly F-16s and potentially other fighter aircraft.
The coalition plans to start training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s in August in Denmark, until a center is set up in Romania.