5 Dutch F-16s landed in Romania, Ukrainian pilots will ‘ride’ them

The initial batch of F-16 aircraft, which originate from the Netherlands, have been officially stationed at Romania’s Fetești air base. Their primary function is to facilitate flight training programs, specifically tailored for not just Romanian, but also Ukrainian pilots. An announcement to this effect was made by the command center of the Romanian Air Force.

In Norway, 12 deeply modernized combat-ready F-16s are aging
Photo by Eirik Helland Urke

Five F-16s from the Royal Netherlands Air Force have successfully touched down at the Gheorghe Mociornita 86th Air Force Base in Fetești, as per the official statement.

The F-16 Training Center in Europe [EFTC] is poised to benefit from the aircraft, borne out of a collaboration between the defense sectors of Romania and The Netherlands. This partnership has been strengthened with the additional support of Lockheed Martin, and Denmark, which serves a coordinating role alongside The Netherlands in the International F-16 Coalition.

Central Europe will produce much of the F-16's physical structure
Photo credit: Wikimedia

Center, but not only for Ukrainians

The Romanian Air Force command has confirmed the establishment of a new global training complex for F-16 aviators, with the intent of augmenting collaboration among Western allies. The initiative will also foster uniform operational protocols and amplify NATO’s ability to tackle intricate issues in the geographical areas of the Black Sea and Eastern Europe.

The cooperative agreement, as per the report, stipulates that the 86th Air Base, vital infrastructure, and support will be furnished by the Romanian Ministry of Defense. Concurrently, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is to supply F-16 aircraft, while Lockheed Martin’s role is to provide trainers and support infrastructure.

USAF new F-16 'dark grey' camouflage scheme goes mainstream
Photo credit: USAF

As articulated by the Air Force Headquarters, the establishment of this center is expected to bolster the expediency of preparation for Romanian aviators. This development unfolds in conjunction with the Romanian military’s procurement of 32 F-16 aircraft from Norway, thereby underlining the continued emphasis on enhancing military prowess.

A center of strategic importance

In light of the prevailing geopolitical climate and Romania’s critical geographic placement in the Black Sea zone, the inception of this center holds paramount significance for fostering transnational cooperation, fortifying security, and bolstering unity within the NATO allied forces, the pronouncement underlines. 

If Russia pollutes the runways, the US F-16 becomes unusable
Photo by US Air Force/Senior Airman Erica Webster

By establishing this facility, Romania demonstrates its commitment to facilitating optimal training conditions, equipped with cutting-edge technology and technical assets. This provision extends not exclusively to Romanian airmen but also incorporates those from allied and associate nations, Ukraine included.

First impressions

The F-16 multirole fighter jet, a product of American prowess in aeronautics, now holds a prominent role within the training curriculum of Ukrainian aviators. On the 4th day of October, a renowned Ukrainian aviator, recognized by the pseudonym “Moonfish”, divulged a report detailing his personal experience with the F-16. Enrolled in the current F-16 multirole fighter training initiative, “Moonfish” imparted his preliminary insights solely through a well-attended Ukrainian digital communication platform.

The prediction from Moonfish suggests that the F-16 should achieve combat readiness in a period spanning six to eight months. Underlining the composition of the cadre, he asserted that the collective expertise of the training cohort is derived exclusively from well-experienced combat pilots, adding a significant dimension of knowledge to each fresh assembly. 

The particularized methodology utilized in Ukraine’s F-16 training program serves as a noteworthy point of discussion. This approach meticulously incorporates the distinct combat legacy of the Ukrainian pilots, their current mission specifics, as well as potential assignments with the American aircraft.

F-16s in Ukraine?

According to a statement disseminated on November 4 by Rybar, a renowned think tank based in Russia, Ukraine received two disassembled F-16s from Poland on the night of November 3. The institute continued to reveal that since November commenced, a minimum of five such dismantled F-16s have found their way into Ukrainian regions – a figure that includes the pair of jets mentioned as delivered on the 3rd of November.

In a recent update disseminated through his X account, initially a Twitter profile, Rybar imparts the news to his myriad of followers, indirectly stating that “the much-awaited consignment has now been procured,” signifying the arrival of two F-16 jets transported via ground freight transportation facilities.

The verification of such data is cloaked in inherent complexities. Viewed from a logical perspective, it can be inferred that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense would be reticent to divulge any details concerning this delivery if indeed it has occurred. 

In dealing with the matter at hand, the Russian Ministry of Defense would likely adopt a comparable measure of circumspection, as open revelation would unintentionally broadcast their knowledge of the delivery conduit. Indeed, a comprehensive quietude would probably be upheld by all nations implicated, particularly Ukraine’s partners, about this specific delivery.

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