Number of F-16s for Ukraine is increasing to 75 combat-ready

Belgium’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a major move: the country will supply Ukraine with 30 F-16 fighter jets. According to Hadja Lahbib, the head of the department, the first planes are expected to arrive this year, just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled for a visit to Belgium. The delivery is set to be completed by 2028.

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

These new 30 F-16s will bring the total number of American aircraft committed to Ukraine to 85. Additionally, ten more jets will be used for spare parts. This is in addition to the at least 24 F-16A/Bs coming from the Netherlands, 19 F-16AM/BMs committed by Denmark, and 22 F-16AM/BMs from Norway.

This Belgian announcement aligns with another significant update. The first group of Ukrainian pilots has completed their training in the United States and will continue their training in Europe before taking to the skies over Ukraine with the F-16s. Meanwhile, the Netherlands has also finished training the first ten Ukrainians responsible for the ground support of these jets. Ukrainian pilots are being trained in the USA, Denmark, and Romania.

US-made F-16 in the sky over the Black Sea: predator or prey?
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

The actions show the approaching F-16s

Many Western experts and militaries have described the delivery of US-made F-16s to Ukraine as a significant enhancement to Ukraine’s defenses, though not a definitive solution or “silver bullet.” However, recent actions by the Armed Forces of Ukraine clearly indicate that the F-16 will soon be operational in Ukrainian skies. 

Recent Ukrainian ATACMS attacks underscore this shift. As previously reported by BulgarianMilitary.com, Russia has lost seven S-400 launchers and four radars associated with S-400 batteries within a month. Additionally, Ukraine has targeted the Voronezh-DM radar, a crucial element of Russia’s early warning system and its nuclear program, functioning as an over-the-horizon radar. 

US-supplied to Ukraine ATACMS M39 Block I destroyed a Russian S-400
Photo credit: Telegram

The Ukrainian military has been utilizing ATACMS Army Tactical Ballistic Missiles in ongoing assaults on front-line Russian airfields, effectively neutralizing several S-300/S-400 anti-missile systems. These strategic strikes against Russian air defense infrastructure are likely to clear the way for F-16 fighter jets to enter the conflict in the coming weeks.

The Belgian F-16A/Bs

The Belgian F-16A/B are versions of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, a versatile jet fighter initially developed in the United States. Belgium quickly adopted the F-16 via the European Participating Governments [EPG] program, along with Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway. 

At Mach 1.9, the F-16 rapidly reduces speed and quivers - US pilot
Photo credit: USAF

The F-16A is the single-seat model, while the F-16B serves as the two-seat training variant. The Belgian Air Force brought these jets into their arsenal to upgrade their fleet and bolster their defense capabilities. This acquisition was part of a broader NATO initiative to standardize and enhance the air forces within its member countries. 

Basic F-16 vs. Belgian F-16

One of the key differences between the Belgian F-16A/B and the original F-16 is the inclusion of European-specific avionics and equipment. These changes were made to satisfy the operational demands and preferences of the Belgian Air Force. For example, the Belgian versions feature unique communication systems and electronic warfare suites designed for Europe’s defense requirements. 

Ukrainian digital altered F-16 emerges; Russia boosts missile output
Photo credit: Twitter

Another significant difference lies in the engine. While the original F-16s were equipped with Pratt & Whitney F100 engines, some of the Belgian F-16s were later upgraded to use General Electric F110 engines. This upgrade resulted in better performance and increased reliability. 

The Belgian F-16s have also undergone several Mid-Life Upgrades [MLUs] to extend their service life and bolster their capabilities. These updates included advanced radar systems, improved cockpit displays, and upgraded weapon systems, enhancing their versatility and effectiveness in modern combat scenarios.

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