They say God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands by fighting severe flooding to secure their motherland. Intriguingly, this Dutch resilience against the seas resonates with Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense (MoD).
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A video posted on Twitter by the official account of the Defense of Ukraine on January 30 appeals to The Netherlands for the F-16 fighter jet. The video opens by appreciating the Netherlands and says, “A country that fought a battle against the seas and won knows there is no such thing as an unwinnable war.”
The video soon switches tempo and lists the military equipment Kyiv has received or is yet to receive from Amsterdam. This includes howitzers, armored carrier vehicles, Patriot missile defense, and the Leopard-2 tanks. The video ends with “Thank you, The Netherlands!”
While the video appears to be an exercise of gratitude at face value, the message is in the caption. It reads: “The land that famously beat the sea will help us beat our enemy. Thank you, the Netherlands! PS And you know that we would appreciate F-16s!”
The land that famously beat the sea will help us beat our enemy. Thank you, the Netherlands!
P.S. And you know that we would really appreciate F-16s! pic.twitter.com/7ubqh6rQR8
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) January 30, 2023
After the United States and Germany announced the delivery of Abrams and Leopard-2 battle tanks to Ukraine, the embattled country focused on securing F-16 fighter jets from NATO. Against that backdrop, Kyiv officials are reaching out to peers like Netherlands and Poland for the F-16 fighters.
Earlier this month, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands Wopke Hoekstra said in a statement that his country is ready to consider with an “open mind” the eventual delivery of F-16 fighters if Kyiv asks for it.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force is gradually replacing its F-16A/B MLU fighters with the F-35A, a fifth-generation fighter with more technologically advanced capabilities. It currently has 24 F-16s in its arsenal after selling 12 of these jets to the US to use as trainer aircraft.
Besides the Dutch F-16, Ukrainian officials are keenly eyeing the F-16s in their neighborhood, i.e., Poland. The Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, Andrii Yermak, said, “Work is underway to secure F-16 fighter jets. We have positive signals from Poland, ready to transfer them to us in cooperation with NATO.”
The Dutch F-16s stand out because they once shot down a MiG-29 fighter jet in combat.
When A Dutch F-16 Shot Down A Russian MiG-29
During the Kosovo war in the late 1990s, the NATO allies came together under the banner of ‘Operation Allied Force’ to bomb Yugoslavia and force the country to retreat from Kosovo.
As part of the operation, air strikes lasted from March 24, 1999, to June 10, 1999, and ended only when the Yugoslav forces withdrew.
One of the first kills in this operation was made by the F-16 of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. On the night of March 24, four F-16AMs of the Dutch Air Force were among the first NATO aircraft to enter Serbian airspace.
In just a matter of minutes, a Serbian MiG-29 was shot down by the Dutch, giving them their first air-to-air win since World War II.
According to reports, this particular engagement marked the combat debut of the F-16 AM, the most advanced F-16 in operational service.
Lt Col Jon Abma, RNlAF, the commanding officer of the Belgian-Netherlands Deployed Air Task Force (DATF), spoke about what transpired in the early stages of Operation Allied Force in an interview with Jane’s Defense Weekly.
He said, “At 19.30hr local time, four F-16AMs took off from here for a fighter escort mission to protect one of the first NATO strike packages. After an in-flight refueling over the Adriatic Sea, the flight crossed over Albania into Serbia. Upon entering Serbian airspace, AWACS informed them that three MiG-29 aircraft had taken off from an air base near Belgrade.”
Col Abma said, “The four F-16AMs headed out toward the threat, working to detect the MiGs on their radars. Subsequently, one of the MiGs was picked up by all four F-16s. When within range, our flight leader fired one AMRAAM against the MiG. It was an instant hit after a flight of 30 seconds.”
“The pilot involved visually saw a fiery explosion. At the same time, the AWACS recorded that the MiG disappeared from the scope,” Col Abma said. “We have never seen the other MiG-29s, but around the same time, two US F-15s shot down two of those aircraft.”
It is pertinent to note that the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) operates its fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets that it has extensively deployed in the ongoing conflict. Ukrainian fighter pilots have taken down some of these jets in air combat or by its air defense troops firing surface-to-air missiles.
Ukraine, on its part, also operates the MiG-29 aircraft, besides the Su-24, Su-25, and Su-27, to name a few. The country also received MiG-29 fighters from NATO. However, it has renewed its pitch for cutting-edge F-16 fighters to take on the VKS and achieve air superiority.
The F-16 Fighting Falcons have been deployed on several battlefields globally and have a reputation for being combat hardened. It has also been said that Ukrainian pilots trained on Soviet-era fighter jets will soon adapt to the F-16s within months of training. This has dramatically spurred optimism for the transfer.
Any western fighters that could plausibly be sent would still be at high risk from Russian SAMs, so would have to fly at very low altitudes within several tens of kilometres of the frontlines. This would dramatically reduce effective missile range and limit strike options (2/10) pic.twitter.com/aCLszN6WUK
— Justin Bronk (@Justin_Br0nk) January 23, 2023
However, experts have noted several challenges related to transferring F-16s to Ukraine, such as maintenance. Senior research fellow at RUSI, Justin Bronk, explained in a series of tweets how Russian surface-to-air missiles would threaten the fighter jets.
Bronk said, “Any western fighters that could plausibly be sent would still be at high risk from Russian SAMs, so would have to fly at very low altitudes within several tens of kilometers of the frontlines. This would dramatically reduce effective missile range and limit strike options.”
However, despite the caveats given by military experts and inhibitions expressed by policymakers, Kyiv has intensified its demand for the F-16. It is yet to make a top priority, but the demand has already caused bickering in the NATO camp.
Ukraine’s request for F-16 also has takers in the West. According to a report in Politico that cited unnamed US officials, a group of US military leaders is subtly urging the Pentagon to allow the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to the war-torn country to itself against Russian missile and drone assaults.
The momentum, therefore, is building.
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