Netherlands halts F-16 sale to US firm, will send to Ukraine instead

PARIS — The Netherlands scrapped plans to sell six F-16 fighter jets to a U.S. company and will prepare

Netherlands halts F-16 sale to US firm, will send to Ukraine instead

PARIS — The Netherlands scrapped plans to sell six F-16 fighter jets to a U.S. company and will prepare the planes for delivery to Ukraine instead, according to the Dutch Defence Ministry.

The agreement increases the number of Dutch aircraft that will be handed over to the embattled country to 24, it said.

The Dutch had been negotiating with Draken International, a Lakeland, Florida-based provider of adversarial training services to the U.S. Air Force, after a deal to sell the company 12 F-16s fell through last year. The two parties ended talks on a new agreement for six F-16s after they concluded that the sale and delivery of the aircraft won’t happen in the short term, the Netherlands said in a statement.

The Netherlands, together with Denmark, is leading a European effort to provide Ukraine with F-16 capabilities. In November it sent the first of 18 aircraft to Romania for pilot training. The planned transfer of jets will replace losses Ukraine has suffered in its war with Russia, as well as provide more powerful radar and integration with NATO-standard weapon systems.

“Ukraine’s aerial superiority is essential for countering Russian aggression,” Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in a post on X Monday.

The F-16s being prepared for handover to Ukraine are still in use by the Netherlands Royal Air Force, Defence Ministry spokesman Mark van de Beek told Defense News. The 18 aircraft being provided for training will remain property of the Netherlands. Of those aircraft, five are already in Romania, with the remainder to follow by the end of June, Van de Beek said.

The Dutch had agreed in 2021 to sell 12 F-16s to Draken for training use in the U.S., with an option for another 28 aircraft. That deal fell apart following a “disagreement on the state of maintenance” of the jets at time of handover, the government reported in June.

The F-16s will help Ukraine supress Russian air defense systems and may ease the strain on the country’s own air defenses by intercepting cruise missiles, analysts say. Russia has so far enjoyed a decisive advantage in radar and air-to-air missile capabilities, and F-16s will be an upgrade from Ukraine’s older jets, according to analysts at the Atlantic Council.

The Dutch fleet that once totaled 138 F-16s received a €750 million midlife update between 1998 and 2002 that increased capabilities to equivalent of the Block 50/52 upgrade that first became operational with the U.S. Air Force in 1994. Those aircraft are equipped with the HARM radar targeting system.

The Netherlands acquired the F-35 to replace its fleet of F-16s. The Defence Ministry says it will stop operating the F-16 by October and it will no longer have capacity to maintain the remaining older jets in flying condition after September.

The Dutch government has insisted a number of conditions are met before it hands over the F-16s to Ukraine, including having airfields suitable to operate the fighter and sufficient trained personnel for maintenance.

Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.

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