Led by Lieutenant Colonel Bård Bakke, the Norwegian detachment in Denmark, in collaboration with a broad coalition of nations, provides instructor support on F-16s for Ukraine’s air defence. This includes technical training, mission support, and other crucial elements to ensure the effective operation of the weapon system in Ukraine.
Ukrainian pilots, with experience in other types of fighter jets from the Soviet era, will undergo a transition to the full capabilities of the F-16, a long-term endeavour. While some effectiveness is anticipated from the start, it will take time for Ukraine to operate the F-16 according to Western standards.
“I’ve been very impressed with the Ukrainian personnel,” says Bård Bakke, who has also participated in the international collaboration working to establish the F-16 in Ukraine.
The F-16 system in Norway was originally retired on January 6, 2022, and replaced by the F-35. The Norwegian Defence Material Agency was tasked with decommissioning the F-16 aircraft and preparing them for potential sale. Thirty-two of the aircraft have already been sold to Romania.
Since the mission to support Ukraine began in July 2023, personnel from across the Norwegian defence sector have worked diligently to re-operationalise the F-16 after two years on the ground.
The first instructors from the Royal Norwegian Air Force were already in Denmark by October, and now, with the arrival of the aircraft, they are ready to contribute further. The Norwegian government has decided to support Ukraine in building a modern fighter jet capability, donating Norwegian F-16 fighter jets.
The long-term goal is to enable Ukraine to ensure its own security without international support, a crucial step for stability and security in Europe. This support will take place within a multinational framework, led by the United States, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
Norway, like Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium, has decided to donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Training Ukrainian personnel on the aircraft is a key preparation for the donation.
“An impressive effort has been made in the Norwegian defence sector to establish the F-16 contribution in Denmark,” says Minister of Defence, Bjørn Arild Gram, who recently visited Bodø for a firsthand look at the preparations.
He also got to sit in the seat during one of the final test flights of the Norwegian F-16s before Ukrainian pilots take the helm for practical training in Denmark.
“Since the summer of 2023, we have been working to reintroduce the F-16 into the Norwegian Armed Forces. Operating, maintaining, and conducting operations with fighter jets are specialised and complex operations. It has been a truly unique and special effort from the entire defence sector, and we look forward to training Ukrainian pilots on the Norwegian F-16s,” says Detachment Commander Bakke.