12 to 18 Dutch F-16s fly to Romania to be ridden by Ukrainian pilots

The Dutch News Agency ANP recently quoted the Minister of Defense of the Netherlands, Kais Olengren, announcing plans to deploy between 12 and 18 F-16 fighter jets to Romania shortly. This move is part of a broader initiative to train Ukrainian pilots. 

32 Romanian F-16s will receive TTP 'Friend and Foe' integration
Photo credit: RNAF

As Olengren explained, the establishment of a Ukrainian pilot training center in Romania is making steady progress. “Our objective is to have a fleet of 12 to 18 aircraft stationed in Romania in the coming weeks, thus bringing the center to full capacity,” she stated. 

Active efforts

The Netherlands, along with Denmark and a handful of other Western nations, are presently engaged in active efforts to train Ukrainian pilots. These countries also have future plans to transfer certain fighter jets to Ukraine. 

F-16 fired a 5th-gen missile with upgraded circuit guidance cards
Photo credit: USAF

The current Dutch arsenal comprises 42 aircraft, with a trend towards phasing out the old for more contemporary F-35s. Previously, Dutch officials had already articulated a readiness to shift up to 24 fighter jets to Ukraine, reserving the remaining for training purposes.

First impressions

The American F-16 fighter jet has now become a notable part of the Ukrainian pilot training regimen. On October 4, a distinguished Ukrainian pilot, who operates under the callsign “Moonfish”, offered a first-hand experience report about the F-16. He is currently an active participant in the F-16 multirole fighter training program, and his initial impressions were shared exclusively with a popular Ukrainian communication portal. 

Moonfish expects the F-16 to reach combat readiness within a timeline of 6 to 8 months. He emphasized that trainee groups consist entirely of seasoned combat pilots, bringing a wealth of experience to each new class. 

Interesting to note is the customized approach employed in Ukraine’s F-16 training program. This way, it takes into account the unique combat history of its pilots, along with the specific missions they are presently focused on and prospective tasks involving the American aircraft. 

The first flights are coming

F-16 joystick feel is interesting, not like MiG-29 - a UKR pilot
YouTube screenshot

Dedicated to ensuring their future fighting efficiency, Ukrainian pilots are predicted to embark on their initiation flights in F-16s shortly, co-flying with expert instructors. The Armed Forces of Ukraine corroborated that their pilots have already begun rehearsing on sophisticated flight simulators, carefully replicating the F-16’s cockpit design. 

Speaking about his personal comparison of the F-16 with MiG-29 fighters, Moonfish gave prominence to the feature-packed displays bundled with the former and the simplified approach to equipment interaction on the onboard computer. 

In terms of cockpit comfort, Moonfish concedes to the F-16 being remarkably designed, with its somewhat narrow yet highly efficient ergonomic structure, providing great practicality. 

Adding further to the training discussion, Moonfish affirmed the importance of simulator training. Ukrainian pilots of MiG-29s, transitioning to F-16s, initially receive training on accessible simulators, some of which could even be homemade, as suggested by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. 

Rare case: the RuAF sent a MiG-29 to intercept a foreign aircraft
Photo credit: Reddit

The MiG-29 is not an F-16

As shared by BulgarianMilitary.com, time spent on simulators is a mandatory requirement before Ukrainian pilots can pilot an F-16 independently. 

Acknowledging the contrasting operations of sight management and weapons interaction, Moonfish concedes that the transition from basic data input on the MiG-29’s onboard computer to an advanced interface of F-16 is a significant leap. Yet, as an experienced Ukrainian officer, he expresses assured optimism in overcoming these new challenges. 


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