Belgium Declines to Supply F-16 Aircraft to Ukraine Due to Fleet Condition

Belgium has decided against supplying its old F-16 aircraft to the Ukrainian military, citing the aircraft’s condition and accumulated flight hours as the main reasons. The first F-16A, registered FA-95, is set to retire on August 8, 2023, after reaching 8,000 flight hours, the end of its structural life as set by Lockheed Martin. 


Lieutenant General Frédéric Goetynck of the Belgian Defense Department of Material Resources stated that no one would make the political decision to deliver equipment with bodywork cracks. Belgium’s Defense Minister, Ludivine Dedonder, emphasized that the current priority of the Belgian Air Component is to protect the airspace over Benelux and the Baltic countries. 

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The fleet of 44 F-16s forms the backbone of Belgium’s air defense. These aircraft are of the same variant as those committed by Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands to Ukraine in late August 2023. The four countries, known as the European Participating Air Forces (EPAF), placed a joint order in the late 1970s to replace their Lockheed F-104 Starfighter squadrons. These F-16A/B Block 20 MLU (Mid-Life Update) aircraft are equipped with a Head-Up Display (HUD) suitable for night operations, a GPS receiver, and a Westinghouse (now Northrop Grumman) AN/APG-66 fire control radar. 

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They can carry and launch six AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles with a range of 150 kilometers (95 miles) and have the capability to release precision-guided weapons such as the GBU-24 Paveway III and Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM). This variant of the fighter can also accommodate Sniper and Litening targeting pods. In October 2018, Belgium chose the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II over the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale. The country purchased a total of 34 F-35A aircraft to replace its fleet of F-16 fighters. The final delivery of the first two Belgian F-35A combat aircraft was reportedly postponed until December 2023, pending a comprehensive certification and qualification of the onboard software. However, Belgium has reaffirmed its commitment to contribute to international efforts to provide Ukraine with F-16s by focusing on training Ukrainian pilots and supporting plane refurbishment provided by other countries. The possibility of cannibalizing Belgian F-16s for their parts and components has not been publicly discussed yet.

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