The delivery of 15 surplus Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16AMs to Jordan has been delayed over Jordanian requests for specific hardware and software updates. The jets were supposed to make their way to Jordan this year, but that has been postponed according to a RNLAF spokesperson.
The Netherlands and Jordan in 2013 agreed on the transfer of 15 RNLAF F-16 to the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) as a follow up on the delivery of six former Dutch jets in 2009. Delivery of the latest batch was at first planned for 2015 and then rescheduled for 2016.
After an inquiry by Airheadsfly.com, it has now become clear that the RJAF has requested several configuration updates on the jets. The Dutch are waiting for those to be completed before delivery commences. A RNLAF spokesperson confirms the deal is still ‘on’ but no new timeframe was given.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) celebrated 500 flight hours during Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Wednesday 25 October. This milestone was reached and celebrated by Edwards-based 323 squadron this week.
The Dutch have been testing both RNLAF Lockheed Martin F-35As and their behaviour in an operational evironment. Recent activities included dropping live bombs on the test ranges surrounding Edwards.
Of course, 2016 was also marked by the successful deployment of both jets to the Netherlands, which sparked a major change in public acceptance of the F-35. Whereas earlier the Dutch mainly opposed the expensive fighter jet program, they now seem to have accepted the F-35 as the best choice to replace ageing F-16 jets.
Still, the RNLAF F-35 fleet will only consist of the current two jets for the next two years. Starting 2018, more jets are to be delivered. The total number projected so far is 37.
The Netherlands is ready to purchase two Airbus tanker/transport aircraft with Luxembourg, Dutch Defense minister Hennis Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert announced on Thursday 28 July. The aircraft will be NATO property and will be stationed at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands for pooling and sharing. Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland intend to join the agreement at a later date.
The purchase of the MRTT A330 type aircraft is an important step in filling the notorious European tanker gap. Compared to the US, European nations individually and combined have very limited air-to-air refuelling capabilities.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) is closely involved in the purchase of the aircraft. Luxembourg and the Netherlands will have exclusive user rights. In addition to the purchase, the MRTT project also covers maintenance and operational deployment. The Netherlands leads the multinational collaboration project.
The new aircraft will be registered in the Netherlands and stationed at Eindhoven airbase, as reported previously here at Airheadsfly.com. A study will be carried out to determine whether European Air Transport Command, which is also stationed in Eindhoven, will be able to supervise the MRTT pool.
Costs and personnel will be allocated on the basis of the number of flying hours that each country needs. The expected life span of the fleet is 30 years and the investment budget is between €250 million EUR and 1 billion EUR.
The Netherlands and Luxembourg recorded the agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The contract with Airbus was signed today. If Belgium, Germany, Norway and Poland decide to take part in the agreement, both the MoU and the quotation given by Airbus allow for expansion. If more countries do indeed decide to join, the design costs will be shared with these countries too, leading to lower costs for Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The number of A330 MRTT aircraft to be purchased could eventually rise to 8.
The 2 participating countries are examining the possibility of collaboration with France and the UK, among others, in relation to training and instruction as well as maintenance. France is set to receive its first A330 aircraft in 2018. The UK already has A330 MRTTs in service.
The 2 aircraft will be delivered from 2020. In the same year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will start to gradually decommission its current two KDC-10 aircraft.
Royal Netherlands Air Forc (RNLAF) F-16s ended operations over Iraq and Syria on Tuesday 28 June. Since deploying to the area in October 2014, Dutch crews chalked up 2,100 mission, during 1,800 of which weapons were deployed. The Dutch jets will return home on 30 June while Belgian F-16s take their place.
The RNLAF operated from Jordan throughout the deployment, first with six jets plus two reserved and eventually with four jets plus two reserves.
The return marks a rare opportunity for RNLAF crews to catch some breath. Dutch F-16s have actively involved in many conflicts for decades. In the early Nineties, Dutch Vipers supported a no-fly zone over Bosnia. Several years later, they took part in the air war over Kosovo. Also, the RNLAF took part in operations over Afghanistan for many years. In 2011, the Dutch saw limited action during the allied campaign over Libya.
The next scheduled deployment is in 2017, when the Dutch take their turn in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states.
Airheadsfly.com has reported a lot over the last few weeks about the two Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-35A Lightning IIs currently deployed to the Dutch airbase of Leeuwarden. Meeting them on the ground is impressive, meeting them in the air is an encounter of another kind. A fifth generation kind, in fact.
On Wednesday 1 June, Airheadsfly.com boarded Netherlands Air Force 65, a KDC-10 tanker aircraft. We boarded the very same aircraft earlier this year for air-to-air refuelling with F-16s, but this time something else was around, looking for fuel. Archer 1, a Lockheed Martin F-35A, first presented itself on the KDC-10’s left wing, then refueled using the tanker’s boom system. The fifth generation fighter jet then continued to the right wing for some formation flying.
Last week, the Dutch performed so-called perception flights with their Lightning IIs, giving those living around airbasea the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the sound the F-35 produces. The flights proved to be successful, as many regarded the sound as similar to that of the F-16.
In the air and on Wednesday, F-16 joined the F-35 on the KDC-10’s wing. All jets then left for a joint exercise, which mainly involves another test for the F-35. The RNLAF sees interoperability between the fifth generation F-35 and fourth generation jets such as the F-16, as vital for the next decade or so.
Their stay in the Netherlands also marks the very first time the Lightning II operates from hardened, concrete aircraft shelters. Tests so far proved there are no issues with either exhaust emissions inside the shelter or noise vibrations that could potentially damage the aircraft.
The RNLAF has also been testing ALIS, the Autonomic Logistics Information System used for mission planning, maintenance and logistical issues. The tests involve connecting to a server at Edwards Air Force Base in California and thereby communication with ALIS. So far, the system has been working fine, says Albert de Smit, reponsible for the deployed jets. “For example, after our 8 hour flight over the Atlantic last week, all data was uploaded to our server at Edwards without problem.”
Meanwhile, Dutch taxpayers on Thursday 2 June will have a chance to see the F-35 over various well known Dutch sights. The 100 million USD jet will overfly several airfields, but will also appear overhead Amsterdam, The Hague and a few typically Dutch landmarks.
Last but not least, the Lightning II will star at next week’s airshow at Leeuwarden airbase, where it will almost surely also perform a flight demonstration. On 14 June, the jets are scheduled to return to Edwards Air Force base to continue their Operational Test & Evaluation program.