US approves transfer of Danish, Dutch F-16s to Ukraine

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Washington, August 19 (IANS) The US has approved the transfer of American-made F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and the Netherlands to Kiev as soon as Ukrainian pilots are fully trained to operate them, a State Department spokesperson said.

"This way, Ukraine can take full advantage of its new capabilities," the BBC quoted the spokesperson as saying on Friday.

Denmark and the Netherlands have taken the lead in preparing a program to train Ukrainian pilots on the American jet, but the US is still working with other countries to see who may provide F-16s to the Ukrainian Air Force.

The State Department spokesperson also said the two nations were given "formal assurances" for the transfer of their multi-role F-16 war planes, adding that this would happen "as soon as the first set of pilots complete their training".

Also on Friday, the US approved the transfer of F-16 instructional materials, including training modules, documentation and classroom training materials, from Denmark to Ukraine, CNN quoted an administration official as saying.

The transfer will allow the Danish Defence Ministry to move forward with “their effort to stand up pilot and maintenance training programs”, the official added.

While the Dutch are thought to have about 24 operational F-16s which are scheduled to be taken out of service and replaced by more advanced war planes, Denmark is also planning an upgrade of its fleet of some 30 F-16s.

Welcoming the move, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said that it "marks a major milestone for Ukraine to defend its people and its country".

"Now we will further discuss the subject with our European partners," he tweeted.

On his part, Danish Defence Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said: "The government has said several times that a donation is a natural next step after training. We are discussing it with close allies," he told Denmark's Ritzau news agency.

In Ukraine, Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov described the US decision as "great news", reports the BBC.

"Our military has proven it is filled with fast learners. We will soon prove that Ukraine's victory is inevitable. Thank you to all our partners and friends in the United States, the Netherlands and Denmark. Onward to Victory!" he wrote on X.

An 11-member coalition of Ukraine's allies in the West is due to start training Ukrainian pilots later this month and they are expected to be ready next year.

Ukraine is believed to have dozens of combat aircraft -- mostly MiGs -- all dating from the Soviet era.