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Number of F-16s destined for Ukraine increases to 75, ready for combat

The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a major measure: the country will provide Ukraine with 30 F-16 fighter jets. According to Hadja Lahbib, head of the department, the first planes should arrive this year, just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to visit Belgium. Delivery is expected to be completed by 2028.

Central Europe will produce much of the physical structure of the F-16
Photo credit: Wikimedia

These 30 new F-16s will bring the total number of American aircraft engaged in Ukraine to 85. Additionally, ten additional aircraft will be used for spare parts. This is in addition to at least 24 F-16A/Bs from the Netherlands, 19 F-16AM/BMs committed by Denmark and 22 F-16AM/BMs from Norway.

This Belgian announcement aligns with another important update. The first group of Ukrainian pilots completed their training in the United States and will continue their training in Europe before taking to the skies over Ukraine with the F-16s. In the meantime, the Netherlands has also completed the training of the first ten Ukrainians responsible for ground support of these aircraft. Ukrainian pilots are trained in the United States, Denmark and Romania.

An American-made F-16 in the skies over the Black Sea: predator or prey?
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Actions show F-16 approach

Many Western experts and militaries have described the delivery of American-made F-16s to Ukraine as a significant improvement in Ukraine’s defense, although not a definitive solution or “silver bullet.” However, recent actions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces clearly indicate that the F-16 will soon be operational in Ukrainian skies.

Recent Ukrainian ATACMS attacks highlight this shift. As previously reported by BulgariaMilitary.com, Russia lost seven S-400 launchers and four radars associated with S-400 batteries in one month. Additionally, Ukraine targeted the Voronezh-DM radar, a crucial part of Russia’s early warning system and its nuclear program, functioning as an over-the-horizon radar.

Block I ATACMS M39 supplied by the United States to Ukraine destroyed a Russian S-400
Photo credit: Telegram

The Ukrainian military uses ATACMS Army Tactical Ballistic Missiles in continuous assaults on Russian frontline airfields, effectively neutralizing several S-300/S-400 anti-missile systems. These strategic strikes against Russian air defense infrastructure will likely pave the way for F-16 fighter jets to enter the conflict in the coming weeks.

Belgian F-16A/B

The Belgian F-16A/B are versions of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, a multirole jet fighter originally developed in the United States. Belgium quickly adopted the F-16 through the European Participating Governments (EPG) program, alongside Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.

At Mach 1.9, F-16 quickly reduces speed and shakes – US pilot
Photo credit: USAF

The F-16A is the single-seat model, while the F-16B serves as a two-seat trainer variant. The Belgian Air Force has integrated these aircraft into its arsenal to modernize its fleet and strengthen its defense capabilities. This acquisition was part of a broader NATO initiative to standardize and strengthen the air forces of its member countries.

Basic F-16 versus Belgian F-16

One of the main differences between the Belgian F-16A/B and the original F-16 is the inclusion of European-specific avionics and equipment. These changes were made to satisfy the operational demands and preferences of the Belgian Air Force. For example, the Belgian versions feature unique communications systems and electronic warfare suites designed for Europe’s defense needs.

Ukrainian digitally modified F-16 emerges;  Russia increases missile production
Photo credit: Twitter

Another significant difference lies in the engine. While the original F-16s were powered by Pratt & Whitney F100 engines, some Belgian F-16s were later upgraded to use General Electric F110 engines. This upgrade resulted in better performance and increased reliability.

Belgian F-16s have also undergone several mid-life upgrades (MLUs) to extend their service life and enhance their capabilities. These updates included advanced radar systems, improved cockpit displays and improved weapon systems, improving their versatility and effectiveness in modern combat scenarios.

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