The image left no room for doubt: the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky, inside the cockpit of a Dutch F-16. Next to him, the commander of the Netherlands Air Force, André Steurgives you explanations about the features of this powerful fighter plane.

The scene occurred in the Eindhoven hangar of the Netherlands Air Force military base.

The visit to this military installation was the highlight of Zelensky’s official trip to the Netherlands, the second leg of his European tour after visiting Sweden.

Next to him, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, he acted as guide. With an F-16 in the background, the Dutch Prime Minister took the floor and made an announcement that was no less expected: the Netherlands and Denmark will deliver to Ukraine a yet to be determined number of F-16 fighter jets.

“We can announce that the Netherlands and Denmark commit to transfer F-16 aircraft to Ukraine with the cooperation of the United States and other partners, once the conditions for such transfer are met,” he announced.

Following Rutte’s announcement, Denmark confirmed its commitment through its Defense Minister, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen: “I am proud that Denmark, together with the Netherlands, donates F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine’s fight for freedom against Russia.”

The goal is for the planes to be fully operational by next winter, in the first weeks of 2024.

Why Ukraine’s insistence on that date? Everything seems to indicate that the Ukrainian high command is designing a second phase of his current counter-offensive which will begin in the first bars of next year.

In this new phase, the domain of the heavens will be decisive. kyiv intends to achieve that dominance with the air superiority which will presumably give you the F-16.

“Soviet” Pilots

This commitment, the first made public by NATO allies comes days after the United States gave its partners the green light to deliver F-16 units to Ukraine.

The permission of the White House It was an essential condition, since, since the F-16 is a US-made aircraft, the countries that have acquired it are not authorized to export it to third countries without Washington’s permission.

Likewise, for the entry into combat of the F-16 it will be essential that the Ukrainian pilots complete their training, which is currently underway.

The ukrainian pilots they are adapted to piloting planes of Soviet origin, such as Suhhoi or MiG planes.

As has happened with the endowment of western tanks and armored vehicles –Leopard 2, or Bradley– or artillery systems and anti-aircraft batteries such as the HIMARS or Pariot, the Ukrainian crews will have to follow an express training course for Western NATO weapons, with technologies completely foreign to those they are used to.

It is a race against time which does not always work well, although it is the only option Ukraine has right now.

Time is running against him and he can only play the trick of Western weapons –far superior to Russian ones– to defeat some Moscow forces far superior in number and resources.

Right now, the tiny Ukrainian air force inherited from the Soviet Union it is no match for the Russian air force.

In statements collected by Reuters, Zelensky He acknowledged that the F-16s can help the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The F-16 is a veteran of the air forces of the countries of the NATO. Despite already having several decades of service, it continues to be a cornerstone of the defense of Western countries.

It is a light combat aircraft that entered service in 1979. Its greatest role, however, was acquired in the 21st century with its intervention in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

In addition, these are planes with the capacity to transport missiles with nuclear warheads, a particularity that led the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrovto claim that the delivery of the F-16s to Ukraine was a nuclear threat from the West.