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    Belgium boosts Ukraine’s air power with F-16 jets under specific conditions

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    Belgium has confirmed its commitment to Ukraine’s defense by signing a security agreement which includes a military aid package worth at least EUR 977 million.

    Central to this package is the donation of 30 F-16AM fighters from Belgium’s own air force to bolster Ukraine’s capabilities in the ongoing conflict with Russia.

    Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced, “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.”

    This gesture is not without precedent; Belgium joined what has been termed an “F-16 coalition of allies” back in July 2023, though at the time, the exact number of aircraft to be donated was not specified.

    With the addition of Belgium’s F-16s, Ukraine is expected to assemble a formidable fleet of 96 F-16 fighters, given the previous pledges of Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway.

    Belgium mandates that its F-16s must not be flown over Russian territory—a restriction highlighted by Prime Minister De Croo: “Everything which is covered by this agreement is very clear.

    It is for utilization by the Ukraine Defense Forces on Ukraine’s territory.” This stipulation contrasts with the stance of the Dutch government, which allows Ukraine the freedom to use donated Dutch F-16s to strike Russian targets, as long as such actions comply with international law and the UN Charter’s right to self-defense.

    Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren explained, “We are applying the same principle that we have applied to every other delivery of capabilities, which is once we hand it over to Ukraine, it’s theirs to use.”

    The training of Ukrainian pilots to handle these advanced multi-role fighters is currently taking place in several countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, and Romania.

    This is a critical step in ensuring the effective integration of the F-16s into Ukraine’s air defense strategy.

    The Belgian Air Component is concurrently transitioning to the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.

    This modernization effort underpins Belgium’s ability to donate a portion of its F-16 fleet. The first Belgian F-35 conducted its maiden flight in May 2024.

    Belgium’s donation schedule spans over a four-year period, aiming to supply all 30 F-16s to Ukraine by 2028.

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed gratitude for this support, emphasizing the pressing need to improve Ukraine’s air defenses and rebuild its air force, which has suffered significant attrition over two years of war.

    Related image you might interested:

    Relevant articles:
    Belgium confirms donation of 30 F-16s as part of military aid package to Ukraine , European Security & Defence, 06/05/2024
    Ukraine can strike Russian targets with Dutch F-16s, POLITICO Europe, 06/03/2024
    A big F-16 donation to Ukraine comes with a major condition, Yahoo Singapore News, 06/04/2024
    Dutch defense minister: No restrictions on Ukraine’s use of our F-16s, Ukrinform, 06/03/2024

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