On August 20, during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visits to the Netherlands and Denmark, these countries promised to provide Kyiv with 61 F-16 fighter jets. Denmark may deliver the first six planes before the year-end.

"The F-16 is capable of protecting Ukraine from missile terror from within the country, driving Russian ships and aircraft away, and gaining air superiority," Yuriy Ihnat, spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, tells

"These are the latest modernized aircraft that give Ukraine completely new opportunities," Defense Express editor-in-chief Oleh Katkov explains. has a brief look at what prospects this will open up for Ukraine.


Following his visits to the Netherlands and Denmark, Zelenskyy said that Ukraine would receive at least 60 modern Western F-16 fighter jets from these countries: 42 from the Netherlands and 19 from Denmark. The planes will be handed over after the training of Ukrainian pilots and engineers is completed.
Зеленський в F-16 разом з прем'єр-міністеркою Данії (Фото: Телеграм Володимира Зеленського)
Zelensky in the F-16 together with the Prime Minister of Denmark (Photo: Telegram of Volodymyr Zelensky)

Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte said that they have 42 F-16 fighters. All of them will be transferred to Ukraine, Katkov assures Including those previously contracted for Ukraine by the private company Draken International.

"These 42 planes are a finite resource that will be distributed in different ways: some of them will be received by the Ukrainian Air Force, some will be used for further training, for example," he says.

Ukraine will receive F-16 Block 20 MLU fighters, military expert and Israeli Defense Forces officer Yigal Levin told "These planes were fully upgraded in the late 1990s," he says. "They offer Ukraine a full range of capabilities.

The planes are provided on the condition that Ukraine should use the F-16s only on its territory to oust the enemy, emphasizes Danish Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, Kristeligt Dagblad quotes him as saying.

Ihnat stresses that Ukraine strictly adheres to this obligation in relation to all the weapons it receives:

"We take up arms to defend against aggression. And we honestly keep our word."

The chairperson of the Bundestag Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, also emphasized: "Obviously, there is no indication that Ukraine will be able to attack Russian territory" with the F-16.


The planes contracted by Draken International have already been undergoing refurbishment, and these 12 aircraft can be delivered as soon as possible, Defense Express editor-in-chief notes.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that the first group of modern F-16 fighters will appear in Ukraine "closer to the new year."

F-16 (Фото: EPA)
F-16 (Photo: EPA)

Ihnat emphasizes that it is impossible to name the exact date: "It all depends on how well our pilots are trained and how quickly the ground staff learns." No one doubts that the staff is very talented, he added.

According to him, 70 Ukrainian service members are training on F-16 fighters in Denmark: "There are those who fly and those who support them. This is a very large army of people, we call them aviators. And it is clear that they also need to learn how to maintain the equipment and support the flights."

This is the first group of pilots to be trained on the F-16. The second and third waves will follow later. The second group is young pilots graduating in 2023 who will go to study in the UK.

It can be assumed that the third group will be pilots with combat experience, graduates of 2016. The fact that they will be training in Sweden was reported by the commander of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Mykola Oleshchuk.

There is a possibility that Ukraine will indeed be able to get one F-16 squadron as early as 2023, Katkov suggests. And it will significantly strengthen the Air Force.


With the advent of the F-16, Ukraine will be able to work on both air and ground targets of the Russians, believes Igal Levin.

The fighter jet can use long-range missile weapons to hit air targets in the form of AIM-120 at ranges of more than 100 km, Katkov adds. This is already helping to drive back Russian aircraft.

"Right now, the Russians can use their aircraft with impunity," he explains, "Even if the Buk is placed directly in the front trench at point zero, its range is up to 40 kilometers. The Russians, without entering its strike zone, simply drop it and that's it. We do not have and will never have enough Patriot systems to cover the entire front line."

The fighters can drive away both enemy tactical aircraft and attack helicopters, which do a lot of damage, he adds.

F-16 (Фото: EPA)
F-16 (Photo: EPA)

The F-16 is a multi-purpose aircraft capable of engaging not only air, but also land and sea targets, emphasizes Ihnat, the Air Force spokesman. The question is what type of weapons you put under the wings.

There are a lot of options, says Levin. In fact, the F-16 can carry 95% of all available Western nomenclatures: any laser or GPS-guided bombs, and short- and long-range air-to-air missiles.

"It's like a construction set. For any mission, it can be fitted with suspensions and various other types of weapons," he explains. "The Mig-29 was designed as a fighter. Its task is to take off and shoot down the enemy. Yes, it can carry bombs, HARM missiles were adapted for it, and they were used to counter radars. But they were used to a limited extent. Now Ukraine will be able to use these missiles more effectively."

When Ukrainian planes use JDAM-ER and HARM missiles, they have to go to the target area and drop them, Katkov clarifies.

"The plane does not communicate with the weapon at all," he says. "On the F-16, the pilot will select the target, not just launch, after which the missile follows its algorithms. This is a completely different level of effective use of weapons."

In addition, the aircraft will be able to strengthen air defense in the rear, adds Defense Express editor-in-chief. In particular, the F-16s will be able to shoot down cruise missiles much more effectively thanks to a more advanced radar that can effectively see targets against the ground.

But getting one squadron of F-16s will not mean that a white flag will be raised over the Kremlin the very next day, Katkov emphasizes.

"One, two, three squadrons is not enough," he says. "There are about 500 aircraft in Russia that can conduct a full-fledged air battle. Of course, there are questions about how many of their aircraft are not flying, what is the capacity of the air bases they can use, but still."

According to Ihnat, Ukraine needs 128 Western-made multi-role fighters to replace its old fleet.

The main new fighter jet for the Air Force should be the F-16, Ihnat said. But it will not be the only one in its class. Another type of aircraft that will be in service with Ukraine is the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen.

Although Sweden has reiterated that it has no "spare" fighters for Ukraine, Ukrainian pilots have already begun "introductory training."

Another priority for the Air Force is to obtain Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale, says Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk.

"Both the F-16 and Gripen are multi-purpose aircraft capable of protecting Ukraine from Russian missile terror, driving Russian ships and Russian aviation as far as possible, and gaining air superiority," explains Ihnat.

Ukraine should already be thinking about what the Air Force will fly in 2030-2035, Katkov adds. The flight life of the aircraft Ukraine will receive is expected to last until the mid-2030s.

"The F-16 is a victory aircraft," he says. "Post-victory aircraft are a separate issue that will be taken care of when we resolve the main issue."

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