Old aircraft, new museum. That about sums it up for the soon to be opened Nationaal Militair Museum (no, we’re not gonna translate that into English) in the Netherlands – although not quite. This 35,000 square meter museum offers more than aircraft from old to not-so old; it offers a complete retrospective of the Dutch military over the years – but again, not quite.
A twelve tonnes F-15 Eagle shows there’s even more to this museum, since the Dutch military did fly the Gloster Meteor, Hawker Hunter, F-84F Thunderstreak, F-5, F-16 and F-104 Starfighter present in the museum – or the Dassault Breguet Atlantic outside – but it never flew the F-15. This however, is where the exact location of the NMM comes into place: former Soesterberg Airbase, once home to 32nd ‘Wolfhounds’ Fighter Squadron of the US Air Force in Europe. It also explains the F-4 Phantom, F-100 Super Sabre and F-102 Delta Dagger the museum has in its collection, although not all are presented to the public.
The F-4, once an inmate of the US Air Force ‘boneyard’ in Tucson, is hiding elsewhere. The museum’s spokesperson says there are plans to display it in or in front of a hardened aircraft shelter at Soesterberg airbase, but nothing is certain. As Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk noted during his visit on 2 December the Phantom II is in a superb restored condition.
Of all ex-US Air Force aircraft only the F-15 hangs inside, together with 18 other aircraft. The rest of the American stuff, including the F-86 Sabre and the Delta Dagger, are on the former platform in front of the museum. The other American planes are near the museum depot, which is the former hangar of 298 Squadron, about 150 yards/metres from the museum.
Moreover a museum spokespersons says he hopes to add a F-104 to the military vehicles currently serving as gate guard to the museum. The Starfighter in question earlier got looks mounted on a pole near highway A28. But there is a Starfighter hanging beautifully inside, as well as a Hawker Hunter that looks stunning despite its age.
But above all, Soesterberg signifies the birthplace of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, back in 1913. The place breathes history for aviation fans, who’d do well to also to visit those parts of the museum offering interactive experiences and personal memories of working for the Dutch military. The main hall was built to resemble an aircraft hangar. Costs for the museum totaled 108 million EUR and is effectively a fusion of the former Army Museum in Delft and the Military Aviation Museum earlier in Soesterberg.
The building also offers a nice view of the former airbase, which now has largely been converted to a park, but which also made local headlines these days due to the possible demolition of the ‘Zulu Barn’, from where the 32nd Squadron used to fly Quick Reaction Alert duties. In the light of history and the present day interceptions of Russian aircraft, this discussed demolition seems rather misguided.
A guide book will probably be presented to Dutch King Willem Alexander on 11 December, during the formal opening of the National Military Museum of the Netherlands. We’re also quite sure he won’t have to pay the 9,75 euro (about 10 dollars) entrance fee – but he will be immersed in military aviation history. Go see it for yourself.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Dennis Spronk