Belgium is now the third country to announce a delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. However, the current fleet does not allow delivery before 2025, when the first F-35As will arrive in Belgium. Other announcements of support were also made on October 11, on the occasion of Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Brussels.
Belgian F-16s in Ukraine…
As part of an interview with Bel RTL (radio)Ludivine Dedonder, the Belgian Minister of Defense announced the future delivery of F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft to Ukraine:
“And sending (in Ukraine) of our F-16s, from 2025, depending on the increase in our F-35 capacity.”
The number of devices has not been communicated. This condition of the F-35 may surprise many but, as specified in the chapter below, no Belgian F-16 is currently in storage. A possible Belgian delivery would then result in a significant reduction in capacity of the Belgian Air Component. This possibility had already been rejected and recalled in numerous statements by the Belgian Minister of Defense:
“(…) from an operational point of view, it was not possible, Todayto deliver F-16s since we need them to carry out various missions.“(National Defense Commission of October 4, 2023).
This is also without taking into account the limit of 8,000 flight hours. The Belgian Fighting Falcon fleet is shrinking on its own because although certain aircraft are not yet at this limit, a first aircraft has already been withdrawn from operational service after reaching this milestone in September 2023.
On the other hand, 2025 will mark the arrival of the first four F-35As on Belgian soil, thus making it possible to envisage a delivery of Belgian F-16s to Ukraine. The schedule provides for the delivery of four Lightning IIs each year between 2023 and 2028, and five aircraft in 2028 and 2029. Note that the first eight aircraft (2023-2024) will be deployed in the United States for the training of Belgian pilots. This calendar is, however, theoretical because the assembly of first Belgian F-35As are delayed. Moreover, on October 10, the first Belgian F-35A had just received its F135 engine (source).