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    Belgium pledges to boost Ukrainian Air Force with a squadron of F-16s amidst ongoing conflict

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    Belgium has announced a significant commitment to Ukraine’s defense capabilities by pledging to deliver 30 F-16 fighter jets by 2028, with the first aircraft expected to arrive later this year.

    This move comes amid Ukraine’s ongoing effort to counter Russian military aggression and achieve air superiority on the battlefield.

    The agreement, part of a substantial €977 million military aid package.

    It was signed during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Belgium and his meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

    “These F-16 jets will be provided to Ukraine as soon as possible. Our aim is to be able to provide first aircraft before the end of this year, 2024,” stated De Croo.

    The Belgian government has been clear about the conditions of the F-16 donation: the aircraft must not be flown over Russian territory, ensuring they are utilized solely for Ukraine’s defense within its own borders.

    De Croo clarified at the press conference with Zelenskyy, “On… utilization of weapons, everything which is covered by this agreement is very clear, it is for utilization by the Ukraine Defense Forces on Ukraine[’s] territory.”

    As part of the broader coalition support, Ukraine is set to bolster its air force significantly.

    These collective efforts increase Ukraine’s future fleet of F-16s to an estimated 85, enhancing its capabilities to defend its airspace and potentially improve its strike capacity with long-range missiles.

    The procurement of F-16s aligns with Ukraine’s longstanding request for advanced fighters to counter Russian air threats effectively.

    To facilitate this transition, the United States has approved the transfer and pilot training is underway across various locations including the UK, the U.S..

    Training is a crucial aspect as Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Charlie Dietz noted.

    “A small number of pilots have finished their U.S. based training and moved forward to the next portion of training outside the United States.”

    Maj. Charlie adding that “additional Ukrainian pilots continue to train in Arizona.”

    The delivery schedule for these jets has been revised, with the initial transfer expected by the end of 2024 and full completion by 2028.

    Relevant articles:
    Belgium to provide Ukraine with 30 F-16 aircraft by 2028, first to arrive in 2024 , Kyiv Independent, 05/29/2024
    Ukraine updates: Belgium to deliver 30 F, DW (English), 05/28/2024
    A big F-16 donation to Ukraine comes with a major condition, Business Insider, 05/28/2024
    Ukraine-Russia war – live: Belgium pledges dozens of F-16 fighter jets as Putin’s troops ‘massing on border’, Yahoo! Voices, 05/29/2024

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