Head to head with Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

And the losers are …

The JAS 39 Gripen (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The JAS 39 Gripen (Image © Elmer van Hest)

As reported this week, the F-35A Lightning II has taken the final hurdle in the Netherlands. That leaves a few companies with empty hands, although it has to be said that Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter GmbH did just about everything they could. It’s however no major surprise that the F-35A will after all replace the Dutch F-16 in a few years time. Saab, Dassault, and Eurofighter GmbH were essentially the losers from the word ‘go’, as the Dutch MoD basically had only thing in mind. Here goes a tribute to losers!

The granddaddy of all; the first Rafale first flew on 4 July 1986, two months before the first Eurofighter technology demonstrater and two years before the first Saab Gripen. This is the same Rafale at the Le Bourget in 1991. Excuse the shitty picture, but the Rafale happens to be our favoruite loser. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Le grand-père of all; the first Rafale first flew on 4 July 1986, two months before the first Eurofighter technology demonstrator and two years before the first Saab Gripen. This is the same Rafale at the Le Bourget Airshow in 1991. Excuse the shitty picture, but Rafale happens to be our favourite loser. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

In 2001, Rafale, Gripen and Eurofighter went head to head at the Leeuwarden airshow in the Netherlands. The JSF – as the F-35 was known as back then – was nowhere to been seen, since the prototype X-35 only flew first in October 2000.

First up was this Saab JAS39A Gripen. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
First up was this Saab JAS 39A Gripen … (Image © Elmer van Hest)
... followed by this Italian pre production EF2000. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
… followed by this Italian pre-production EF2000. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Closing the curtains was the Rafale B. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Closing the curtains at Leeuwarden was this Rafale B. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

In the years that followed, all three competitors started appearing in European skies more and more, while the F-35 only really started testing in late 2006.

In 1997, Eurofighters started to appear in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy. This Spanish twoseater was a unfortunate one, as it crashed in November 2002. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
In 1997, Eurofighters started to appear in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy. This Spanish two-seater was an unfortunate one, as it crashed in November 2002. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS39A, seen in June 2006 at Satenäs in Sweden. The model A Gripen have now been replaced by C models. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS 39A, seen in June 2006 at Såtenäs in Sweden. The model A Gripen has now been replaced by C models. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
New type, new training. In the UK, RAF Coningsby was and is the place to be for Typhoons, as the Eurofighter EF2000 is now called. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
New type, new training. In the UK, RAF Coningsby was and is the place to be for Typhoons, as the Eurofighter EF2000 is now called. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Export
As production mounted, Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter started looking for export customers for their hardware in the hope that sells would really take off. All types saw action in the 2011 Libya war. Meanwhile, testing of the F-35 continues in the US. Some time between August 2016 and December 2016, the first USAF F-35 squadron will reach Initial Operational Capability.

A Rafale C takes off loaded with maximum fuel (Image © Elmer van Hest)
June 2008: an Armée de l’Air Rafale C takes off loaded with maximum fuel. Despite many efforts, the sky remains cloudy for Dassault. The company still hasn’t sold a single Rafale outside France. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Saab is actually not with empty hands. The company has exported the Gripen to the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Slightly clearer skies for Saab. The Swedish company exported the Gripen to the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Eurofighter Typhoon was sold succesfully to Saudi Arabia. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Eurofighter Typhoon was sold successfully to Saudi Arabia. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Show off
In recent years, Gripens, Rafales and Eurofighters were steady performers at airshows worldwide. It is unclear when the first F-35 will be seen outside the United States.

Stick 'm up! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Light ‘m up! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Stick 'm up again! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Light ‘m up again! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Gripen design in true form. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Gripen design in true form. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Spanish Typhoon rolling during an airshow. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Spanish Typhoon rolling during an airshow. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Rafale rolling as well. Rafale and Eurofighter went head to head during several bids. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Rafale rolling as well. Rafale and Eurofighter went head to head during several bids. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Gripen on approach (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Landing time for this Gripen. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Landing time for this RAF Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Typhoon on approach. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Rafale aims for a touchdown, and is still doing so in 2013. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Rafale aims for a touchdown, and is still doing so in 2013. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
As a matter of fact, older JAS39A Gripens are already used as museum pieces. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Forever touchdown: older JAS 39A Gripens are already used as museum pieces. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The final loser
There is however one more loser in the well over a decade long debate about a Dutch F-16 replacement. It’s the F-35A Lightning II that in some years time will touch down on Dutch soil, but will have to do its very best to win the hearts and trust of Dutch taxpayers. Plus, we at AIRheads↑FLY simply think its not the sexiest thing in the sky. Go Rafale!

Dutch F-35A F-001 seen over Texas. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Dutch F-35A F-001 seen over Texas. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest