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Denmark and The Netherlands to lead training of Ukrainian F-16 pilots

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Ritzau/AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Denmark and The Netherlands to lead training of Ukrainian F-16 pilots
Denmark is set to decide whether to donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in the autumn. Pictured are Portuguese Air Force F-16 military fighter jets participate in NATO's Baltic Air Policing Mission in Lithuanian airspace near Siauliai, on May 23rd, 2023. Photo by: PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP

Denmark and the Netherlands have taken the initiative to lead the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 jets, according to statements made by the US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, to Reuters.

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The collaborative effort aims to enhance Ukraine's aviation capabilities and improve its defence forces.

On Thursday, it was further confirmed that Denmark's Defence Minister and the US Defence Secretary had a meeting to discuss the matter in detail.

In addition, several other countries are also expected to take part in the training.

"The first step is to find out which countries will be involved in carrying out the training mission, and we are doing that now. In regards to this, Denmark is ready to play a central role together with the Netherlands," Denmark's defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, told the Ritzau newswire after the announcement. .

"The US Defence Secretary recognised Danish support for Ukraine and our work in developing solutions for the continued support for the Ukrainians."

He added that it had "yet to be clarified" whether the training offer meant that Denmark would also donate jets to Ukraine but noted that the agreement is "an important strategic step in the long term."

Recent initiative developments

Denmark's defence minister first stated that Denmark would start discussions on how to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 combat aircraft last Friday.

The statement was made after US President Joe Biden announced earlier that day that the US supports a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots.

Poulsen has also said that he expects several countries to cooperate on the F-16 pilot training.

After meeting other European defence ministers in Warsaw, Poland, last Monday, he said he was "very optimistic after the discussion we had today."

"Belgium, Great Britain, and the Netherlands have already said that they will join, but I clearly sense that several countries will also join the coalition of countries that will carry out educational activities for the Ukrainian pilots," he said, adding that more concrete information would likely be announced in the next couple of weeks.

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Broad support for a concrete model

On Monday, Poulsen spoke to his colleagues from the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Poland.

"I think that there is great and good support for now trying to create a concrete model for what an educational activity might look like for the Ukrainian pilots," he said, according to Ritzau.

However, the preparatory process will take time.

"From the time one starts until you have made a retraining effort, I think you should expect a minimum of around six months.

"But it is my clear ambition that by July 1st, we would like to have a concrete project ready that we can offer to the Ukrainian government. And that we can then get it started as soon as we hit the summer holidays," Poulsen said.

He also said he expects Denmark to decide whether to donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in the autumn.

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