By Nerijus Adomaitis and Terje Solsvik
OSLO (Reuters) -Norway will donate U.S.-made F-16 combat aircraft to Ukraine, the Norwegian prime minister announced during a visit to Kyiv on Thursday, joining an effort led by the Netherlands and Denmark.
F-16s have been on Ukraine’s wish list for a long time because of their destructive power and global availability. The fighter jet is equipped with a 20mm cannon and can carry bombs, rockets and missiles.
“We are planning to donate Norwegian F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, and will provide further details about the donation, numbers and time frame for delivery, in due course,” Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a statement.
Stoere met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv earlier on Thursday and announced donations of anti-aircraft missiles and other equipment.
“The donation of these F-16 jets will significantly strengthen Ukraine’s military capabilities,” Norway’s Defence Minister Bjoern Arild Gram said in the statement.
Many NATO allies have F-16s – originally designed in the 1970s – making it easier to find spare parts compared with the Russian planes currently used by Ukraine.
Last year, the Norwegian air force retired its fleet of 57 F-16s and later agreed to sell 32 of them to NATO ally Romania in what Stoere has said was a “fixed and settled” deal.
A further 12 aircraft are due to be sold to a private company providing training for the U.S. Air Force, although this deal has yet to receive final approval and some analysts have said these jets could be suitable for a donation to Ukraine.
Of the 13 remaining F-16s, the Norwegian defence ministry said last year many were too costly or hard to repair and might be placed in a museum, used for parts or sent for scrapping.
Norway has replaced its F-16s with the successor model F-35.
(Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by Nora Buli, Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)