Dutch F-35s prepare for the big move

At Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs currently owned by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), are being prepared to fly to Edwards Air Force Base. At the Californian airbase, the Dutch wil continue the Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) phase. Meanwhile Christopher C. Bogdan, program executive officer for the F-35, meets with Dutch parliament on Tuesday 13 January.

Update 17 January 2015: both Dutch F-35s have been ferried to Edwards. A pic of the flight is found here. Both aircraft have been given an ‘OT’ tail code,

The two Dutch F-35s are operated in the US by 323 squadron, formerly based at Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands. Four pilots are getting to know the F-35 thoroughly, with the first one now having over one year of experience on the aircraft. At Edwards, the Dutch should further broaden their expertise on the aircraft.

The first new fighters are expected in the Netherlands no sooner than 2019, with Leeuwarden receiving two aircraft that year.  Late 2021, Volkel airbase should welcome its first F-35. That same year, the number of F-35s should be up to 26, with 37 reached in 2023.  Of those, five (eight initially) will remain in the US for training and testing purposes at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The two F-35s now transferring to Edwards, will eventually also end up at Luke.

The first Dutch F-35A seen over the US. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
The first Dutch F-35A seen over the US. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

Formal order
The Dutch decision to buy 37 F-35s was hard fought. F-35 program executive officer Christopher C. Bogdan is in the Netherlands today to talk about the program. The first formal Dutch order for eight aircraft is expected later this year, which eight more each year until 2018. The final order for three aircraft should be placed in 2019.

The number of Dutch F-16s is to dwindle from 61 now, to 45 in 2021 and 24 in 2023, which is to be the final year of Dutch F-16 operations. The type has been in service for an astonishing 44 years then.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Two Dutch F-16s, seen during current operations in Jordan. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Two Dutch F-16s, seen during current operations in Jordan. (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)