NATO begins delivering F-16 fighters to Ukraine

NATO announced that Denmark and the Netherlands have begun delivering F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, a move expected to help increase Kiev’s defense capabilities.

“Right now, F-16s are being transferred from Denmark and the Netherlands to Ukraine,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a summit marking NATO’s 75th anniversary in Washington today.

Those fighters will fly over Ukraine in the summer to ensure that Kiev can continue to effectively defend itself against Russia’s war, he added.

Ukraine has long requested the transfer of advanced Western fighter jets to counter Russia’s air superiority. US President Joe Biden last August gave the green light for European countries to transfer US-made F-16 fighters to Ukraine, despite previous concerns about the lengthy pilot training period.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen sit on an F-16 at the Skrydstrup base in Vojens, northern Denmark in August 2023. Photo: AFP

Secretary Blinken said the transfer of F-16 fighter jets would send a message to Russia that if the war continued, it would be Moscow that would suffer. He also stressed that the fastest way to achieve peace was to “build a strong Ukraine”.

Strengthening air defenses is crucial for Ukraine. Russia resumed attacks on Ukraine’s national power grid this spring, causing widespread blackouts, and has stepped up attacks on the country’s strategic infrastructure.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week that he wanted to strengthen the country’s air defense capabilities over the summer, stressing that Kiev needed at least seven Patriot air defense systems to protect its territory.

NATO members have announced the delivery of four additional Patriot batteries, a SAMP-T battery and other air defense systems to Ukraine. The NATO summit, currently taking place in the United States, is expected to announce further aid packages for Kiev.

The White House statement also said Belgium and Norway pledged to provide additional fighter jets to Ukraine, and affirmed that the alliance would continue to help Kiev strengthen its air force capabilities.

It is unclear how many F-16s NATO has delivered to Ukraine or where they will be deployed. Russia has recently carried out several airstrikes deep inside Ukraine, apparently to test the F-16s’ ability to attack bases.

By Editor