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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
A US Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II fighter aircraft refueled from a US Air Force KC-135 for the first time on August 20, 2013. The Air Force (A) and Marines VSTOL (B) versions already made such a flight earlier. The F-35 CF-1 was piloted by Lt. Col. Patrick Moran. Earlier this month, the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, the Navy’s first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant aircraft squadron, completed its first flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
The F-35 is also known as the Joint Strike Fighter and is supposed to be the premier next-generation air combat asset of many NATO and US-allied countries for decades to come.
1x Dassault DA-20 Jet Falcon VIP transport aircraft
18x Bell 412SP utility & transport helicopter
6x NHI NH90 helicopter for coast guard duties and as shipborne anti-submarine / anti-ship and naval support
12x Westland Sea King Mk 43 search-and-rescue helicopter
16x Saab MFI-15 Safari basic training aircraft
20x Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealty multi-role fighters. Total requirement 52. First two aircraft delivered in 2015 to Luke AFB, no. 3 and 4 in 2016 and then 6 aircraft every year in the years that follow. F-35s will replace F-16s.
8x NHI NH90 helicopter for coast guard duties and as shipborne anti-submarine / anti-ship and naval support
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF / KLu) received its first next-generation fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II on July 25th, 2013. Although the Joint Strike Fighter is now officially Dutch, it will almost immediately after the planned ferry flight from Forth Worth, Texas, to Eglin AFB, Florida, be stored there. Reason: the Dutch parliament has not decided yet if it likes to continue with the purchase of up to 56 F-35s.
The Netherlands ordered two aircraft, the first in 2009, but budget crises and increasing JSF development and production costs scared off the Dutch people’s representatives a bit.
The second Dutch test JSF has been produced as well. According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence it undergoes a series of test and acceptance flights before it will join the first KLu F-35 stored at Eglin. The mothballing will continue until the Netherlands government makes a final decision on which aircraft will succeed the RNLAF F-16 fighters.
The Royal Air Force announced that 617 Squadron ‘Dambusters’ will be the first operational squadron using Lockheed Martin Lightning II aircraft, designated F-35B and also known as the Joint Strike Fighter.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton made the announcement at a Royal United Services Institute conference on Air Power. 617 Squadron is first to disband on April 1st, 2014, when its Tornado GR4 aircraft will be retired. The Dambusters will rise from the ashes in 2016 when the new Lightning II will be delivered.
The UK’s Lightning II is the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which will give the supersonic multi-role stealth aircraft the ability to operate from airbases at land or from aircraft carriers at sea. When it reforms in 2016, 617 Squadron will have both RAF and Royal Navy personnel. The second Lightning II squadron will a Royal Navy one but will be similarly manned by both RAF and RN personnel.