US has promised Ukraine F-16s spare parts for the first 90 days

C. Todd Lopez from the US Department of Defense revealed on November 16 that the department is already undertaking the task of training Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16. He further stated that the US has plans in place to ensure an adequate supply of spare parts for these aircraft as well. 

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

But once these F-16s are delivered to Ukraine, the American support doesn’t end. Ensuring the availability of spare parts for these aircraft for their upkeep and continual operation is also a primary focus. This was emphasized by William A. LaPlante, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, during a discussion with Politico on Tuesday [November 14]. 

LaPlante stressed the importance of provisioning spare parts alongside the aircraft. He was quoted saying, “When delivering to the Ukrainians, always ensure to supply 90 days’ worth of spare parts. That’s the key — we must provide for 90 days’ worth of spare parts,” thus highlighting the Pentagon’s thorough approach to assuring the longevity of the equipment.

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

More deliveries possible

Experts suggest that the initial supply of spare parts is paramount in any transfer of military equipment. As this supply depletes, further batches of pertinent spares will succinctly follow. 

LaPlante emphasizes that the F-16s headed for Ukraine, valued at nearly a billion dollars are no departure from this procedure. These aircraft must be supplemented with the correct spare parts in appropriate quantities. “We’re currently organizing this logistics process to ensure it proceeds seamlessly. On arrival, we’ll make sure the support is sufficient. This provision is something that often gets overlooked, but we’re committed to maintaining quality,” he added. 

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

A lack of spare parts, he posits, could immobilize the Ukrainian F-16s within a matter of months. “We’re determined not to let that occur,” he asserted. “Even if other countries provide their aircraft, the upkeep is critical. If they don’t provide the necessary parts, we must source and supply them.”

Romania

On November 7, five Dutch fighter jets touched down at Romania’s 86th Air Base, near Fetești, marking a crucial step in the setup of the European F-16 Training Center [EFTC]. This center will primarily serve to provide training to Viper pilots from both Ukraine and Romania. 

While the jets are indeed Dutch and remain owned by the Netherlands, the pilot instructors taking charge of the training are from a variety of backgrounds. Notably, most media outlets have reported that the instruction and maintenance at the EFTC are carried out by Lockheed Martin.

It’s important to note, however, that the U.S. defense giant has assembled the F-16 training team at the center using a blend of American and European subcontractors. 

Among these subcontractors are Daedalus Aviation Group, Draken International, GFD [a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space], and ILIAS Solutions. 

Front-line experience

Draken International, along with GFD, will contribute “experienced F-16 instructor pilots with recent front-line experience flying F-16s in the U.S. Air Force and air forces throughout Europe,” according to a recent press release by Lockheed Martin. 

Further to this, Draken’s instructor pilots will be supported by instructors from GFD, a company based in northern Germany with a workforce comprising 250 people, including 100 who happen to be veterans of the German Air Force and Navy.

GFD operates a total of 15 specially equipped Learjets that undertake target simulation and flight inspection and boasts over 50 simulator instructors proficient in the Eurofighter, Tornado, and A400M as part of its team. 

Central Europe will produce much of the F-16's physical structure
Photo by Alex R. Lloyd, USAF

Simulation instruction

It seems that GFD personnel will likely take on roles in simulation instruction at the EFTC. Furthermore, there’s the possibility that GFD’s fleet of Learjets could be utilized as target simulation platforms for the Ukrainian and Romanian pilots undergoing training through the EFTC syllabus. 

Maintenance of the EFTC’s Viper fleet, which is expected to gradually expand to include 12-18 aircraft, will be handled by Daedalus Aviation Group, an F-16 MRO [maintenance, repair, overhaul] based in Tilburg in the Netherlands. This team is expected to work in conjunction with experts from both Draken and Lockheed Martin. 

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

Software solutions

Belgian firm ILIAS Solutions, known for providing logistic and fleet management software solutions for the Belgian Air Component and the Royal Australian Air Force, will be in charge of logistics and sustainment/training management, along with flight scheduling for the team. 

These collaborations among European and American contractors align well with the sources of the training aircraft and the potential transfers to the Ukrainian Air Force, complimenting the recent Romanian deal to purchase 32 F-35s from Lockheed Martin. This setup embodies an integrated military training organization echoing NATO-like structures, which sits well with Romania’s status as a NATO member and Ukraine’s continuing aspirations to join the alliance.

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

The development of the EFTC represents another milestone on Ukraine’s path toward gaining access to fourth-generation Western aircraft and cultivating a pool of pilots capable of operating them. However, it’s yet to be seen whether these resources will eventually confront Russian forces within Ukraine.

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