Officials from Lockheed Martin and the defense ministries of Romania and the Netherlands officially opened the European F-16 Training Center (EFTC) in Romania Monday.
The flight training facility located at Romanian Air Force 86th Air Base near Fetești, Romania, will train pilots from Romania and Ukraine. Last week, five Dutch F-16s were delivered to the center. The Netherlands has pledged to provide up to 18 F-16s for flight training.
The center will serve as a model for training regional partners, including the Ukrainian Air Force, said Kathleen Kavalec, U.S. ambassador to Romania.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and its subcontractors—Daedalus Aviation Group, Draken International, GFD, a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space, and ILIAS Solutions—will provide F-16 training at the new center, Lockheed Martin said.
“Exciting day as I, along with [Kajsa Ollongren, defense minister of the Netherlands] and [Kavalec], inaugurated the F16 Training Center at 86th Fetestic Air Base! This milestone enhances bilateral cooperation, strengthens allied security, prepares [Romanian] pilots for the upcoming F16 fleet & gives support to [Ukraine],” said Angel Tîlvăr, Romania’s minister of national defense, in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The facility will bolster regional interoperability and cooperation, according to Ollongren.
“This international F-16 coalition will strengthen both NATO and Ukraine,” Ollongren said Monday following the opening ceremony. “This type of cooperation—with the defense industry added to the mix—is the future, because it is the only way for us to deal with the current threats.”
Felicitări pentru inaugurarea de astăzi a centrului regional de antrenament #F16, un efort realizat cu sprijinul și @LockheedMartin. Acest centru va servi drept model pentru pregătire partenerilor regionali, inclusiv #WeareNATO #StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/eCkFnfvoZG
— Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec (@USAmbRO) November 13, 2023
Ollongren referenced the efforts of Ukrainian fighter pilot Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov, who lobbied for the modernization of the Ukrainian Air Force with F-16s. Last year, Pilshchykov traveled to Washington, D.C., to try to sway U.S. politicians to support the effort. He was killed during a midair training collision in August, Reuters reported.
“He was a great advocate of the transition to the F-16,” Ollongren said of Pilshchykov. “It is partly thanks to his efforts that we can now train a new generation of pilots.”
The F-16 fighter jet continues to play a crucial role in security missions in Europe and for NATO allies, said OJ Sanchez, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s integrated fighter group. “Lockheed Martin is proud to partner with the Netherlands and Romania on this European F-16 Training Center, which will enhance mission readiness through a comprehensive F-16 training solution for Romanian pilots. The center will focus on ensuring effectiveness and safety of Romanians flying and operating F-16 fighter jets and could eventually expand to include training for other nations.”