Romania launches hub to train pilots for F-16 jets, bolstering Ukraine's defense

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Romania on Thursday said it would launch a regional hub to train pilots including Ukrainians to fly American-made F-16 fighter jets, which Kyiv has said the country needs to fight off Russia’s invasion.

Several European countries are looking to help train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets, after the United States gave its green light in May.

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“Together with other allies and the company designing this fighter jet, a regional hub will be created in Romania for training pilots who will fly these planes”, read a press release issued after a meeting of Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defense.

“Romanian pilots operating F-16 aircraft will be trained here, and the facility will later be opened to pilots from NATO allies and partners, including Ukraine,” it added.

It said the training hub would meet “the training requirements of allies and regional partners”.

Last month, Dutch minister Kajsa Ollongren said the Netherlands, which has taken the lead on the push to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, hopes to start the training by this summer.

Poland has also declared its readiness to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets, while Denmark is currently finalizing preparations for the training on Danish soil.

Romania, which shares a 650 kilometre (400 miles) border with Ukraine, operates a fleet of 17 second-hand F-16s acquired from Portugal and has signed a contract to buy 32 more from Norway.

Romania also aims to buy the latest generation of American F-35 fighter jets, but it will likely take years for the acquisition to go ahead.

A NATO member since 2004, the country hosts a few thousand US troops on its soil, a US ballistic missile defence system and a NATO battlegroup led by France.

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