Contrary to popular belief about the so-called “huge excess” of F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters from European NATO countries, and in combat condition, this is not confirmed by reality. We can talk about a maximum of 30-40 used aircraft, and not in the latest modifications. This conclusion follows from a new review of the F-16 fleet in Europe, published by the military columnist of the portal The Drive, Thomas Newdick.
After months of requests from Ukraine and its allies in Europe, the United States agreed to support the acquisition of F-16 fighter jets by Kiev, but the sources of the actual supply of fighter jets do not are still unclear.
In addition to Ukraine, there has been a significant increase in demand for F-16s in recent years, both new and used, and the United States itself has long used many of its aircraft. , even previously removed, for various purposes. At the same time, some NATO air forces in Europe are just starting or about to start using the F – 35, which will eventually replace their F – 16
In his opinion, the candidate countries for the supply of F – 16 to Ukraine can be clearly divided into “leaders” who really have such an opportunity (this is Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway) and other dubious “outsiders”. But the first, in the end, has only a very modest fleet of F – 16C / D in versions approximately equivalent to the Block 50/52 – far from new.
Belgium has already announced that it can train Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16, but at the same time firmly refused to transfer any of its fighters to Ukraine. The country’s air force intends to eventually replace 50 of its F-16 fighters with fifth-generation F-35As, but that process will span 2025-2027. For this reason, Belgium wants to keep its F-16, which remains the only type of fighter in its fleet.
Denmark, like Belgium, is preparing to replace its F-16s with F-35s, but with a timetable about two years ahead of the Belgian. The Royal Danish Air Force currently operates around 43 F-16s and this is also their only fighter type. Although Denmark may well retain some of the cells in storage, further work will be required to prepare them for handover to Ukraine.
In its current form, the number of F-16s Denmark potentially has at its disposal apparently puts it in a particularly advantageous position in terms of transferring at least some of these aircraft to Kiev.
— estimates the columnist of The Drive.
The Netherlands made faster progress in replacing its F-16s with F-35s. The remaining F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force currently have 24 units considered operational. There are also 18 other “reserve” aircraft – according to the Dutch National Accounting Office these are “maintained for operational use as required and are actually rotated with advanced aircraft to reduce the number of hours flight per cell”. So, the Dutch “already have up to 18” F-16s, a significant part of which may be more or less ready for transfer to Ukraine (although this will affect the readiness and service life of the aircraft of the main fleet).
Norway was significantly ahead of all other European operators of the F – 16 in the transition to the F – 35: the last examples of the Fighting Falcon were decommissioned in early 2022, but their fate was predetermined long before the start of the ‘Ukrainian conflict. Of the 74 such aircraft previously purchased by Norway, only 56 were upgraded to Block 50/52. Of these, 32 aircraft are being transferred to Romania, where they will replace the recently decommissioned MiG-21 LanceR. Another 12 Norwegian F-16s were sold to the American PMC Draken International, which implements pilot training and missions in the role of “enemy aviation” in military exercises.
There are only a dozen F-16s left for Ukraine, although that number will no doubt be readily accepted. The Norwegian aircraft is widely regarded as one of the best-maintained F-16s in NATO’s arsenal and will likely require very little overhaul before delivery.
The Drive underlines.
Five other NATO nations in Europe also operate F-16s, and they all plan to retain these aircraft for the long term.
Last January, Poland vigorously discussed the possibility of arming Ukraine with combat aircraft, but the F-16 option was quickly rejected by the Polish authorities. Wojciech Skurkiewicz, Polish Ministry of Defense State Secretary, said at the time:
The transfer of Polish F-16s is out of the question
Warsaw chose to hand over the MiG-29s to Ukraine rather than abandon its F-16s purchased in 2006 and 2008. Any transfer of these modernized Polish F-16s in the near future can be considered extremely unlikely.
Romania is the latest NATO country to have received F-16s – 17 used aircraft from Portugal and subsequently agreed to purchase 32 decommissioned aircraft from Norway. Since Romania’s MiG-21 LanceR fleet is currently out of service, the F-16 is the only type of fighter aircraft in service in the country.
For Romania, which occupies a strategic position on NATO’s border with the Black Sea and with Ukraine, the transfer of even some of these planes to Kyiv seems extremely unlikely,
suggests The Drive columnist.
Portugal has long since begun to reduce its F-16 fleet with the aforementioned transfer of aircraft to Romania, however, unlike most other NATO countries, it has not yet decided on a successor. to his Fighting Falcons. Therefore, it is highly likely that the country will seek to retain its remaining 25 F-16s for the foreseeable future.
Greece and Turkey have the largest fleet of F-16s in Europe, but tensions between these countries have been and remain a major factor in the eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, none of these countries can be considered a likely candidate for the supply of F-16s to Ukraine: these means are not at all “superfluous” for their own air force.
Greece received 170 F – 16 different types between 1989 and 2010, and thanks to the implementation of a large-scale modernization program to the F – 16 Viper versions, this fighter will remain the mainstay of the army of the Greek air for many years.
Turkey is the second largest operator of F-16s in the world (after the United States itself), with a total of 270 aircraft in Block 30, Block 50 and Block 50+ configurations delivered there over the years. years. About 245 of them are still in service, and Turkey has decided to modernize even 35 of its old Block 30 aircraft. In addition, Ankara is constantly trying to buy another batch of new F – 16s from the United States: since Turkey has been excluded from the F – 35 and will not receive a domestic TF-X fighter anytime soon, the maintenance of its F – 16 fleet becomes even more important for it.
Having “exhausted” the possibilities of Europe, the reviewer of The Drive had to mention the United States:
The Pentagon scrapyard could also become the source of Ukrainian F-16s, although most of the aircraft there will need significant upgrades to make them airworthy, let alone bring them up to the level of modern versions used by the United States itself. However, there are other Pentagon needs that also increase the demand for F-16s: for example, the US Navy uses recently decommissioned examples to equip its VFC-13 squadron in the “enemy” role for military exercises.
Photos used: Ronnie Macdonald
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