The Ministry of Defense of the Netherlands announced the Initial Operational Capability of 4 F-35A multirole jet fighters belonging to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (Koninklijke Luchtmacht). The Netherlands is the twelfth F-35 user to achieve the IOC.
Last year the squadron moved from Leeuwarden to Volkel for exercise Frisian Lightning II. The aim was to prepare the unit for the relocation of its combat assets as quickly as possible. Exercise Frisian Lightning I previously trained in the packing and preparation of technical crew, maintenance means, and tools.
Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Forces, said:
“With this we are taking another important step in our transition to a future-proof air force. I expect that on our path to Full Operational Capability we will enter a period of heavy deployment of this wonderful new weapon system. Just as we have seen almost continuous deployment of F-16s over the past 30 years, more is only possible with this ‘ next level ‘ fighter aircraft.”
The First F-35A aircraft were delivered to the Netherlands back in 2019. The Netherlands Air Force currently operates 14 aircraft of this type along with 47 F-16A/B MLU multirole jet fighters. Eight of its F-35A jets are currently undertaking testing at Luke Air Force Base, a part of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center. A total of 48 F-35A aircraft will replace the aging F-16A/B after the delivery completion. The transition is to be ready by the end of 2024.
The modernization of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to bring new operational and combat capacity to the small nation. Although the size of the Dutch army is limited, it maintains valuable technical and combat assets, having a special place within the Europe’s defense capacities. The Dutch industry also benefits from the F-35 program, with local industry and infrastructure expanding employment. Two months ago, for example, a facility for the engine maintenance of the F-35 opened in Woensdrecht which will also take care of F-35 engines of other aircraft recipients.