Denmark’s government said Monday that the training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets has started and the retirement of the Scandinavian country’s fleet of aging U.S. fighters has been moved up two years.
The replacement fighters, F-35s, will be operative by 2025, acting Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said. Initially, the switch was planned for 2027.
Lund Poulsen said that NATO-member Denmark “has taken the step of starting a training and further education effort for the Ukrainian pilots.”
Ukrainian pilots must spend six to eight months of training before a possible donation of Danish F-16 aircraft can become a reality, Lund Poulsen told Danish broadcaster DR.
“This does not mean that you cannot make a decision beforehand. But (the F-16 planes) will be in Denmark until 2024,” Lund Poulsen said.
The development follows months of internal debate in Washington over the risks of Ukraine deploying F-16s to attack targets on Russian territory and potentially escalating the conflict. The US has control over the jets’ re-export from any country that has them in its arsenal.