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Belgium has promised to deliver 30 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine as part of a military aid commitment. This aid comes amid Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia, during which the Ukrainian Air Force has suffered heavy damages. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been lobbying for allies to supply F-16 jets to update their aging air fleet. Belgium, along with Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands, had previously announced plans to donate U.S.-made jets to Ukraine.

However, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has stipulated that the F-16 jets can only be used within Ukrainian territory. This restriction raises questions about whether the jets can be used in occupied Ukrainian territories that Russia claims to have annexed, such as Crimea. While the details of the agreement between Belgium and Ukraine remain unclear, De Croo emphasized during a joint press conference with Zelensky that the jets are intended for use by the Ukrainian defense forces within Ukraine’s borders.

Despite the promised military aid, deliveries of F-16 jets from various NATO allies have been delayed multiple times. The first batch of Dutch jets, for example, was initially expected to arrive earlier this year. Ukrainian pilots have also required extensive training on the jets, with only some pilots having completed the training in recent weeks. This delay in receiving the jets may hinder Ukraine’s ability to effectively combat Russia’s more modern air fleet.

Experts have suggested that Ukraine may have been better off focusing on bolstering its existing fleet of Soviet-era MiG aircraft, which are familiar to Ukrainian pilots and can be deployed immediately. Guy McCardle, managing editor of military news outlet SOFREP, noted that the F-16s may arrive too late to make a significant impact in the ongoing conflict. While the F-16s may benefit Ukraine’s air capabilities in the long run, the immediate need for air support may be better served by utilizing the existing MiG aircraft.

Overall, Belgium’s promise to provide F-16 jets to Ukraine comes with restrictions on their use within Ukrainian territory. The delayed deliveries of the jets have raised concerns about their impact on the ongoing conflict with Russia and whether they will arrive in time to make a difference. As Ukraine continues to seek support from Western allies to update its air fleet, the strategic decisions around acquiring and deploying new aircraft will be crucial in determining the effectiveness of their military operations in the war.

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