The Ukrainian government has officially asked the Netherlands for American-made F-16 fighter jets, as President Volodymyr Zelensky continues an unannounced diplomatic tour of European capitals aimed at persuading Western allies to send more weapons and military support.
“Ukraine submitted a request to the Netherlands for the supply of F-16 fighters,” Ukraine’s Air Force said on Twitter.
Though Ukrainian officials have for some time been voicing their desire for Western fighter aircraft, they had not yet officially submitted a request.
The Dutch Defense Ministry also confirmed Ukraine’s official request to CNN.
“Ukraine has indeed requested to also help with fighter jets,” Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told CNN affiliate NOS News on Thursday. “We always take all of Ukraine’s requests very seriously. They are fighting that war, they are being attacked by Russia. But fighter jets, that is very complex.”
The Netherlands is phasing out F-16s. It has 24 F-16s left, but plans to be rid of them by next year, as it switches over to the next-generation F-35. In 2021, it sold 12 planes back to the US to use as trainers.
When asked what made the request for fighter jets different from other weapons that the Netherlands has given Ukraine, Ollongren said “the complexity of the system.”
“Learning to work with that, and that is more than just learning to fly in such an aircraft. There is a whole logistical system around it. The availability of it, the face that we then need to discuss it with the Americans and a number of allies. And also just looking very seriously at the implications of such a delivery,” she said.