Netherlands, Britain to procure F-16 for Ukraine as part of fighter jets coalition

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak have agreed to build an “international coalition” to provide F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

A British government spokesperson told the paper that Rutte and Sunak “would work to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F-16 jets”.

The two leaders met in Iceland on Tuesday, where they are taking part in the Council of Europe summit. 

The Dutch government has not yet commented on the reports. However, Rutte said during Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s recent visit to the Netherlands that the Dutch were working hard behind the scenes to reach a consensus with its allies on supplying fighter jets to Ukraine.

‘We are working with partners like Belgium and Denmark to bring the debate on supplying F-16s to a conclusion,’ he said at the time. He reiterated that supplying fighter jets to Ukraine is not a taboo subject, but said it is not yet a done deal either.

Most NATO members in Europe have kept open the possibility of sending their F-16s to Ukraine, even as President Joe Biden said as recently as January that the United States would not do so, Al Jazeera’s John Psaropoulos reported at the time.

“We need F-16s, and I am grateful to our allies for their decision to work in this direction, including training our pilots,” said Andriy Yermak, head of the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Yermak said Belgium, another NATO ally, in particular, had “confirmed its readiness to train” Ukrainian pilots.

Britain does not have F-16s in its air force, but the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark and Belgium do. The US Air Force has almost 800 fully operational F-16 jets in its fleet.

According to Psaropoulos, air defence experts say US-built F-16 fighter jets would offer Ukraine an edge over the Russian air force, but only if combined with powerful missiles and targeting information, which the West would also have to provide and which would risk drawing Ukraine’s Western allies more actively into the war.

Zelenskyy had hinted on Monday that Kyiv could soon receive F-16 fighter jets after a meeting with Sunak at his country retreat.

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