Denmark a step closer to donating fighter-jets, but Ukrainian pilots would need training first

Ben Hamilton
March 17th, 2023

Several parties in Parliament now back plans to send F-16s, but military expert warns it could take ages and risk leaving “gaps” in Denmark’s own line of defence

Ukrainian pilots would need to be retrained to fly the F-16s (photo: Flyvevåbnet)

Support is growing in the Danish Parliament to donate F-16 fighter-jets to Ukraine.

The defence spokespeople for Blue Bloc parties Liberal Alliance, Dansk Folkeparti and Konservative – all members of the Opposition – back plans to follow Poland’s lead.

Yesterday the country became the first NATO country to donate combat aircraft to Ukraine with a consignment of four MiG jets.

At present, the current stance of the acting defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, is that any aircraft donations must be carried out in “co-operation with other countries”, reports DR – a position also held by Radikale.

Urgently needed in Ukraine
Denmark is currently phasing out its F-16 jets ahead of the arrival of the more modern F-35s, so the proposal to send them to Ukraine would appear to be well-timed.

“We believe we must send our F-16 aircraft to Ukraine as soon as possible, so that they can support the Ukrainians’ fight for freedom against Putin’s invasion,” Carsten Bach from Liberal Alliance told DR.

Both Alex Ahrendtsen from DF and Rasmus Jarlov from Konservative agree.

“I think it is obvious that the Danish F-16 aircraft – which are almost out of service and do not have very many flight hours left, but are nevertheless a very modern and powerful weapon – are put into use where there is the most need for them. And that is in Ukraine,” contended Jarlov.

Won’t be a smooth landing, though
Bach addressed the matter of training – while the Ukrainian pilots are used to flying MiGs, they will need to learn how to handle the F-16s. Mechanics will need to be retrained too.

“That plan could include the training of Ukrainian pilots in Denmark first, and then while we are phasing out our F-16 aircraft, we will send them to Ukraine at the rate we receive F-35 aircraft ourselves,” suggested Bach.

However, Kristian Søby Kristensen, the head of the Center for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen, warns it will be an “extensive and lengthy process”.

“Fighter planes have an enormously advanced weapons system and are also quite specialised, so it is not a question of flying these planes to Ukraine and then giving the key to a Ukrainian pilot. It is an extensive training effort that is needed, even if you are an experienced Ukrainian pilot, before you can fly an F-16 aircraft,” he said.

Furthermore, there have been delays concerning the arrival and implementation of the F-35s, which will start arriving this summer but won’t officially replace the current jets until next year, and Kristensen is concerned the premature departure of any F-16s could leave “gaps” in Denmark’s defence.

READ MORE: Delivery of new fighter jets delayed


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