Tag Archives: Lightning II

the Netherlands buys 37 F-35s

The first Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Lightning II (JSF) when it was rolled out of the Lockheed Martin manufactuering plant at Forth Worth, Texas, April 4th, 2012. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
The first Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Lightning II (JSF) when it was rolled out of the Lockheed Martin manufactuering plant at Forth Worth, Texas, April 4th, 2012. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

The government of the Netherlands has decided to buy 37 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, aka the Joint Strike Fighter. The Dutch minister of Defence made the official announcement on Tuesday September 17, 2013.

The cabinet plan can already count on a majority in the lower house of parliament, even though parts of the Labour Party with backing from local fractions of Leeuwarden and Uden/Volkel are lobbying for a no go. Those fractions fear the high noise levels of the new air force jet compared to the current F-16s.

The purchase also has to be piloted through the Dutch Senate but the senators will only torpedo the plan if they feel the lower house of parliament hasn’t done its job properly. The nay sayers might obtain some ammunition from a coming report by the Dutch countability office on costs overrun of the Lightning II project.

2 F-35s
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) officially has already 2 F-35s, officially both delivered to Eglin AFB in Florida to be stored almost immediately waiting the final decision from The Hague. But local spotters have seen the Dutch machines even recently still with the Lockheed Martin factory in Forth Worth, Texas. Pictures of F-35s – among which the Dutch machines – test flying can be found here.

Meanwhile Vanity Fair has published an extensive, scorching story about the current state of the F-35 project.

With the 100th aircraft already in production and many flying in pre-operational state at Eglin, the jet of the future can only fly with great weather, cannot engage in any real combat fight yet, hasn’t dropped a single bomb and is suffering of loads of software problems and of parts already breaking down or malfunctioning when they shouldn’t.

Despite those facts, the US Air Force plans to start training at their main F-35 base of Luke AFB, Arizona, in November this year. The US Marines still hold on to the end of 2014/beginning of 2015 as the year for Initial Operational Capability. Meaning even then the aircraft won’t be much ready for full combat.

Prodigal son
The Netherlands already invested 1.3 billion euro in the JSF project, to buy itself a way into the development of the aircraft and to be amongst the first to receive the prodigal son. Plans called for up to 56 aircraft, but those numbers have been cut substantially to the current 37 Joint Strike Fighters.

Fears amongst aviation enthusiasts that one of the two main airbases, Leeuwarden especially and Volkel, would be closed down with an order for lower numbers of F-35s were unfounded. Despite budget cuts and hundreds of lay-offs, the government aims to move part of a current army base to Leeuwarden. This will mean Leeuwarden will grow.

Volkel AB also stays open, which isn’t unexpected since the US Air Force’s has up to 22 B-61 nuclear bombs located there. Despite the irritation amongst senior government officials about the Americans moving around the stuff the nuclear depot has contributed to the decision to keep Volkel open some sources say.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger with contribution of Elmer van Hest

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UK drops 2nd variant F-35, USN plans F-35 base

With the UK dropping any plans for a mixed Lightning fleet, the US so far will be the sole country with more than one version in service. Here the first F-35C (CF-6) reporting to the US Navy, here at Eglin AFB. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
With the UK dropping any plans for a mixed Lightning fleet, the US so far will be the sole country with more than one version in service. Here the first F-35C (CF-6) reporting to the US Navy, here at Eglin AFB. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

There will be no standard land-based F-35A as a second version of the Lightning II within the United Kingdom. The UK solely commits to the more expensive F-35B to replace the Harrier in Royal Navy operations and will not supplement or replace some of them by the land-based A-alternative to save money.

This was said by Philip Dunne, the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology at the Defence Security and Equipment International event in London this week. The idea of a mixed fleet is more than three years old. It would give the UK a very much mixed fighter fleet with sort of the same types of aircraft like with the Tornado GR/F and Harrier/Sea Harrier forces.

By choosing the F-35B alone, budget limitations will very much determine the final amount of Lightning IIs to be bought. Plans now call for 48 F-35Bs, operated by units with both RAF and RN personnel, mostly as the air force for the future aircraft carriers within the Royal Navy.

Some sources say the final number of F-35s might even be close to a 140 aircraft. But even with the appropriate funds that number might very much depend on the geopolitical situation of the near future. In other words: if f. ex. Russia poses a bigger threat the number will be higher, if there are more friends than foes the UK’s F-35 force might stay at 48.

US West Coast
In the meantime the US Navy will soon decide over where to base 100 of their F-35C carrier-capable fighters, equipping up to eight squadrons that currently fly the F/A-18C Hornet. The final choice is between Californian bases Lemoore and El Centro. Naval Air Station Lemoore would strategically probably be the best option. It is situated close to Fresno, more or less halfway both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Naval Air Facility El Centro, east of San Diego almost right on the Mexican border, would make most sense if Mexico rather than China is a threat to the national interests of the United States. But being a bit more remotely located and with mostly great weather conditions, NAF El Centro provides a great training ground. Final decision on the West Coast F-35C base is expected before Christmas.

© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger

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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

F-35C first refueling while airborne

US Navy F-35C CF01 first in-flight refueling (Image © Lockheed Martin)
US Navy F-35C CF-1 first in-flight refueling (Image © Lockheed Martin)

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.

Source: Lockheed Martin

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Overview: Royal Norwegian Air Force

Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) (Luftforsvaret) status as of 22 December 2015
(© 2014 Airheadsfly.com, source information: Forsvaret. Featured image: Cool ‘selfie’ from a RNoAF F-16 pilot while flying over Indre-Troms (Image © Forsvarets mediesenter))

>>> Check out our continuing news stream on the Royal Norwegian Air Force

Active number of aircraft: 117

  • 2x Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multi-role fighter
  • 50x Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon multi-role fighter
  • 4x Lockheed P-3C UIP Orion maritime patrol aircraft
  • 2x Lockheed P-3N Orion maritime patrol aircraft
  • 4x Lockheed C-130J-30 Hercules tactical transport aircraft
  • 2x Dassault DA-20 Jet Falcon electronic warfare aircraft
  • 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

Aircraft ordered

  • 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
  • 16x AgustaWestland AW101, first deliveries planned in 2017. Will replace Sea Kings.

Airbases (Flystasjon): 8

Reserve bases and secondary fields: 9

    • Banak Lakselv
      • Sea King Mk 43 (330 skvadron)
    • Andøya/Andenes (133 Luftving)
      • P-3 (333 skvadron)
    • Bardufoss (139 Luftving)
      • Bell 412SP (339 skvadron)
      • Lynx Mk 86 (337 skvadron)
      • MFI-15 Safari (Luftforsvarets flygeskole)
      • NH-90 (operational test & evaluation / 334 skvadron)
    • Bodø (132 Luftving, Huvudflystasjon (Main Air Base))
      • F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon (331/332 skvadron)
      • Sea King Mk 43 (330 skvadron)
    • Ørland (138 Luftving, Huvudflystasjon (Main Air Base))
      • F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon (338 skvadron)
      • Sea King Mk 43 (330 skvadron)
    • Gardermoen (135 Luftving)
      • C-130J Hercules (335 skvadron)
      • DA-20 Jet Falcon (717 skvadron)
    • Rygge (under command of 139 Luftving (Bardufoss))
      • Bell 412SP (720 skvadron)
      • Sea King Mk 43 (330 skvadron)
    • Sola (137 Luftving, avd Sola)
      • Sea King Mk 43 (330 skvadron main base)
      • Alert operation base for F-16s
      • NATO tanker aircraft airbase Northern Europe
    • Luke AFB, Arizona, USA (F-35 training unit)
      • F-35A (2 aircraft in 2015, 4 in 2016, 7 aircraft in 2017/2018)

    >>> Check out our continuing news stream on the Royal Norwegian Air Force

    Shooting Range (aka very nice shots)

    A 4-pack formation of RNoAF F-16 fighters in a narrow fjord during Cold Response 2014 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)
    A 4-pack formation of RNoAF F-16 fighters in a narrow fjord during Cold Response 2014 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)

    A RNoAF P-3C Orion from 333 squadron during the DV-day under the winter exercise Cold Response 2012 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)
    A RNoAF P-3C Orion from 333 squadron during the DV-day under the winter exercise Cold Response 2012 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)

    The latest Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules that was delivered as attrition to the one lossed in Sweden. (Image © Lockheed Martin)
    The latest Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules that was delivered as attrition to the one lossed in Sweden. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

    A Royal Norwegian Air Force Dassault DA-20 Falcon in flight (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets Mediecenter)
    A Royal Norwegian Air Force Dassault DA-20 Falcon in flight (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets Mediecenter)

    RNoAF Bell 412SP with serial 167 coming in low, sporting Gatling guns on both sides of the aircraft (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)
    RNoAF Bell 412SP with serial 167 coming in low, sporting Gatling guns on both sides of the aircraft. (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)

    RNoAF/Kystvakt (Coast Guard) NH-90 with tail no. 049 from 139 Luftving during Cold Response 2014 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)
    RNoAF/Kystvakt (Coast Guard) NH-90 with tail no. 049 from 139 Luftving during Cold Response 2014 (Image © Torbjørn Kjosvold / Forsvarets mediesenter)

    A Royal Norwegian Air Force (Luftforsvaret) Westland Sea King (Image © Nils Skipnes / Luftforsvaret / Forsvarets mediesenter)
    A Royal Norwegian Air Force (Luftforsvaret) Westland Sea King (Image © Nils Skipnes / Luftforsvaret / Forsvarets mediesenter)

    The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)
    The final operational landing of a Norwegian Lynx, before the type was retired in December 2014 (read story and sea more images here) (Image © Mats Grimsæth / Forsvarets Mediesenter)

    One of the best Tigers ever, if we had our say. Which we have, now. The Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter served within the RNoAF 1966 to 2000. Norway bought 78 single-seaters (A), 14 two-seaters (B) and 16 RF-5A tactical reconnaissance jets (Image © Elmer van Hest)
    One of the best Tigers ever, if we had our say. Which we have, now. The Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter served within the RNoAF 1966 to 2000. Norway bought 78 single-seaters (A), 14 two-seaters (B) and 16 RF-5A tactical reconnaissance jets (Image © Elmer van Hest)

    The first Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 lands at Luke AFB. (Image © US Air Force / Staff Sgt. Marcy Copeland)
    The first Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 lands at Luke AFB. (Image © US Air Force / Staff Sgt. Marcy Copeland)