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Rutte: Ukraine to receive at least 24 F-16 jets in total

Dutch PM Rutte: “We hope to transfer [the F-16s to Ukraine] as soon as possible. Twenty-four of them, maybe more, but at least 24.”
Dutch PM Mark Rutte (L) meeting Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) during the Munich Security Conference. Germany, 17 February 2024. Photo: president.gov.ua
Rutte: Ukraine to receive at least 24 F-16 jets in total

Speaking to RFE/RL, outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the front-runner to be the next secretary-general of NATO, said Dutch plans to transfer US-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine were “basically on schedule.” He made these remarks after a meeting with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during the Munich Security Conference.

Ukraine aims to use F-16 fighter jets to counter Russia’s air superiority at the frontline. The dense air defenses prevent Russian aircraft from operating behind lines in Ukraine-controlled territory, but they maintain an edge with longer-range radars and air-launched missiles and bombs. By deploying F-16s, which are superior to their current Soviet-era aircraft, Ukraine hopes to push Russian aircraft further from the front.

“We hope to transfer [the F-16s] as soon as possible. Twenty-four of them, maybe more, but at least 24. We are working together with the Danes and others. So, things are progressing now,” Rutte told RFE/RL.

Earlier, the two leaders discussed further military support for Ukraine with the country’s need for air defense and artillery and the activities of the international aviation coalition, according to the Ukrainian President’s website.

The Dutch PM told RFE/RL that EU nations are “working with our partners all over the globe” to address Ukraine’s military needs, focusing on supplying Kyiv with ammunition and air-defense systems.

When asked about alleged signals from the Kremlin suggesting Russia’s readiness for talks with Ukraine, Rutte stated that the decision rested solely with Kyiv.

On 5 February, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren announced the Netherlands’ plans to dispatch six additional F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, increasing their total aircraft pledge to 24.

In late January, the Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said the international partners were ready to provide Ukraine with F-16 jets, yet Ukraine still continued to prepare infrastructure and train personnel for their deployment.

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