Greece will train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, second right, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, centre, inspect F-16 fighter jets in Eindhoven, Netherlands, on August 20, 2023 [Peter Dejong/AP Photo]

Greece will take part in the training of Ukrainian Air Force pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

The offer by Greece to train fighter pilots comes after Denmark and the Netherlands announced they would supply the first United States-built F-16 warplanes to the Ukrainian Air Force – a development seen as tactically key to Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s invasion.

“Today, we have the important result for aviation coalition. Greece will participate in training of our pilots for F-16. I am grateful for this proposal,” Zelenskyy said on Monday during a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens.

The Greek Air Force consists mostly of F-16 jets and Greek pilots are considered extremely experienced in the use of the US-built warplanes.

Zelenskyy did not provide details of the pilot training programme but officials from a coalition of 11 nations had said the F-16 training for Ukraine’s pilots will take place in Denmark and Romania. Training is to begin this month and the first Ukrainian F-16 pilots are expected to complete training by early 2024.

Earlier on Monday, Zelenskyy, who is concluding a European tour with earlier stops in Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark, said the promised deliveries of F-16 jets had made him confident Ukraine could end Russia’s invasion.

Zelenskyy called the decision to donate the warplanes, “absolutely historic, powerful and inspiring for us”, during a visit to Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands on Sunday with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The Dutch Air Force has 42 F-16s and Rutte said the number of fighter jets to be sent to Kyiv would be finalised after talks with Ukraine’s allies.

Russia has long warned that the provision of F-16 to Kyiv would be a “colossal risk” that could escalate its war in Ukraine.

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