Dutch air force testing F-35/F-16 integration

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is currently testing it’s two Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II 5th generation fighter jets alongside its old F-16s in the US, according to a blog written by participating F-35 pilot Pascal Smaal. A McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 tanker aircraft also takes part in the tests, which involve the use of the Link 16 data link system.

The Dutch F-35s are part of 323 squadron and are currently based at Edwards Air Force Base in California, home of advanced military aviation testing in the US. The F-35s are used in tests alongside Arizona-based RNLAF F-16s, involving air-to-ground scenarios as well as air-to-air scenarios. “We want to experience the difference the F-35 makes in such scenarios. And I can tell you, that’s a lot”, writes Smaal in his blog. He is one of four Dutch pilots now trained to fly the new fighter.

Situational awareness in the F-35 is considerably more impressive thanks to the aircraft’s sensitive sensors. Smaal: “Even while I was still preparing for take off, I could already share this information with my formation. On another occasion, four F-16s had a hard time beating a flight of four A-4 Skyhawks. We added just one F-35 to the flight and suddenly became a hundred times more effective.”

The F-35 is a great flyer, Smaal writes. “As the F-35 is produced by the same company that made the F-16, the controls are and feel very similar. The F-35 appears more robust while airborne. The aircraft offers the possibility for smoother flight controls, which makes for better control below the tanker aircraft.” The tests in the US last for two weeks. The first RNLAF F-35 is expected in the Netherlands in mid 2016, also for testing purposes. It should participate in the Leeuwarden airshow in June. The first operational F-35s will arrive in the country in 2019.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A RNLAF F-35 at Edwards, with two F-16s waiting in the background.  (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)