Dutch F-16s supplied to Ukraine to be used in Russian airspace

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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

File photo of a Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon over Afghanistan in 2008.
Image: Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway.

On Monday, Kajsa Ollongren, the Dutch Minister of Defence announced the Netherlands has 24 F-16 fighter jets planned for donation to Ukraine that would be allowed to be used to strike inside of Russia.

Ollongren stated that "once we hand it over to Ukraine, it’s theirs to use." She added "[there] is not" a restriction such as imposed by Belgium, whose Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Ukraine to not fly the fighter jets in Russian airspace. Ollongren's only ask was that Ukraine "comply to international law and the right to self-defense as stated in the U.N. Charter, which means they use it to target the military goals they need to target in their self-defense."

The F-16s are American-made, which generally means the U.S. can influence how and where they are used. According to NL Times, Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins consulted with NATO colleagues, including US representatives, and determined that permission from the U.S. is not needed.

The Netherlands is one of four countries working together to supply F-16s to Ukraine. Belgium, Denmark, and the U.S. are also sending the fighter aircraft.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing Russian pilots when he was asked about the prospect of F-16s supplied to Ukraine. According to transcripts released by the Kremlin, he asserted they would not materially change the conflict and said "we will destroy the aircraft just as we destroy today tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment, including multiple rocket launchers."

The F-16s will replace older aircraft Ukraine has lost during the conflict as well as provide improved capabilities such as stronger radar, further strike range, and better air-to-air combat capabilities. Additionally there is the ability to network the F-16s with other weapons platforms that may be provided by NATO countries such as advanced radar jamming and air-launched cruise missiles.