The US approved sending F-16s to Ukraine
On August 17, 2023, a U.S. official approved Denmark and the Netherlands to send Ukraine F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets as soon as Ukrainian pilot training on the aircraft is complete. Washington informed the two NATO nations that approval of transfer requests will be expedited at that time. Reuters reported that a letter from Secretary of State Antony Blinker to the Dutch and Danish governments read, "I am writing to express the United States' full support for both the transfer of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine and for the training of Ukrainian pilots by qualified F-16 instructors." Ukraine has been very vocal about receiving F-16s to effectively counter Russian air forces, long-range missiles and ground forces.
"We welcome Washington's decision to pave the way for sending #F16 Fighter Jets to Ukraine. Many thanks to @SecBlinken for the good and swift cooperation," tweeted Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra on August 17, 2023. "This marks a major milestone for #Ukraine to defend its people and its country. NATO nations provided Ukraine with modern air defense missiles like the MIM-104 Patriot. The addition of F-16s is an important component of a comprehensive air defense system.
"The government has said several times that a donation is a natural next step after training," Danish Defence Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen told Ritzau on August 18, 2023. "We are discussing it with close allies, and I expect we will soon be able to be more concrete about that." Eleven countries are supporting the effort to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s in Denmark later in August. Ukrainian forces are also being trained on support and maintenance for the F-16.
According to the Dutch Defence Ministry, the Netherlands has 24 operational F-16s that are scheduled to be phased out in 2024. An additional 18 F-16s are available for sale. Denmark has 30 operational F-16s. Both nations have purchased the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to replace their F-16s and remain current with other NATO air forces.
The eventual provision of F-16s to Ukraine is a big step towards integrating Ukraine's armed forces with NATO. A crucial element of the alliance is that all of the member nation militaries are capable of operating with and supporting each other. This extends from communications to logistics and maintenance. Along with NATO main battle tanks and small arms, F-16s bring Ukraine closer to NATO. Even if Kyiv is not offered NATO membership during its war with Russia, the ability to integrate with NATO forces is significant.