Tag Archives: Royal Netherlands Air Force

Close encounter of the fifth kind

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.

(image © Dennis Spronk)
(image © Dennis Spronk)
(image © Dennis Spronk)
(image © Dennis Spronk)

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.

(image © Dennis Spronk)
(image © Dennis Spronk)

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.”

(image © Dennis Spronk)
(image © Dennis Spronk)

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.

The UK should see F-35s in July for both airshows at Fairford and at Farnborough. These jets should arrive in the UK on 27 June.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Video editing – Vincent Kok Orange Avenue Filmworks

F-16_Netherlands_tanker
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
F-16_Netherlands_tanker2
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Riding the Lightning over the Atlantic: ‘Awesome experience’

Riding the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II all the way from the US to the Netherlands was ‘an awesome experience’, according to major Pascal ‘Smiley’ Smaal, who actually flew one of the state-of-the-art jets on Monday 23 May. Smaal is one of four Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) pilots now current on the F-35. All four have joined the aircraft for this trip home – which involves a flying airshow debut.

The Lightnings arrived in difficult weather conditions, with low clouds, cold winds and occasional showers drenching Leeuwarden during the day. The weather in Patuxent River, where the Dutch started their Transatlantic flight, wasn’t much better.

The pilots and groundcrew were a little concerned about their two ‘babies’, “But they did great”, says Smaal. An hour or so after landing at Leeuwarden, the jets were put away in hardened aircraft shelters.

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)

The perception flights over both Leeuwarden and Volkel airbases will start on Thursday 26 May, with other tests also to be performed over the next three weeks.

On 10 and 11 June, the F-35s and their pilots will star at the Leeuwarden airshow, marking the first time the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II appears at an airshow outside the US.

While RNLAF officials keep their mouths shut about an actual appearance in the flying display, Airheadsfly.com has learned that this appearance is already being prepared and that the Lightning II will indeed present itself in the skies over Leeuwarden. Get set for a large crowd during the airshow.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Video filming and editing © Vincent Kok – Orange Avenue Filmworks
Featured image: Major Pascal ‘Smiley’ Smaal. (Image © Vincent Kok)

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)

Lightnings arrive in Europe

Two Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-35A Lightnings were the first of their kind to fly from the US to Europe on Monday 23 May, arriving at the Dutch airbase of Leeuwarden after an eight hour Transatlantic flight. The jets were warmly welcomed in cold, windy and otherwise challenging weather conditions for the two pilots.

Upon arrival, the aircraft greeted Leeuwarden in formation with a RNLAF Gulfstream with Dutch defense minister Jeanine Hennis on board. The Lightnings then landed separately just after 9pm local time, each escorted by an F-16.

image
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Both pilots were visibly impressed by their reception on the ground, and said their aircraft behaved without problems. They had left Edwards Air Force Base in the US on Saturday and made a single stopover at Naval Air Station Patuxent River on the US East Coast.

The Lockheed Martin-made jets fly their first missions over the Netherlands on Wednesday. They will remain here for three weeks for various test purposes. One test involves the measuring of noise levels, while another involves the F-35’s criticized and vulnerable Autonomous Logistics Information System (ALIS). More on that is here.

More on the arrival – video included – follows soon.

Featured image: Both Dutch F-35s after their flight from the US. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

image
(Image © Dennis Spronk))

Dutch to test F-35’s logistical system during deployment

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) plans to put the F-35’s Autonomous Logistics Information System (ALIS) to the test when it deploys not one, but two aircraft from the US to the Netherlands next week. “We will study the logistical footprint of this deployment on behalf of all other partners in the F-35 program”, says Col. Albert ‘Vidal’ de Smit, who will lead the deployment by flying one the F-35s from Edwards Air Force Base to Leeuwarden in the Netherlands himself.

Two Dutch Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs in the vast airspace over Edwards. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)
Related reading: Dutch Lightning Testers. (Image © Frank Crébas/ Bluelifeaviation.com)

On Saturday 21 May, both RNLAF Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs currently based at Edwards for testing purposes, will first ferry to Naval Air Station Patuxent River on the US East coast. They are joined by a KDC-10 tanker and approximately 30 Dutch personnel. On Monday 23 May, the aircraft will cross the Atlantic for the direct flight to Leeuwarden, where they are scheduled to arrive at eight in the evening. Once there, the aircraft will undertake so-called ‘perception flights’ to familiarize those living around both Leeuwarden and Volkel airbases with the F-35’s sound profile. The aircraft is known to be louder than the F-16 it replaces, but the sound characterics are different also.

The Dutch are taking roughly 35 tonnes of support equipment with them on board the KDC-10 and a C-17 Globemaster III. “It may seem impressive, but in fact a lot of the weight is taken up some heavy ground equipment that is independent from the amount of aircraft that we deploy. Nevertheless, we do have a lot of spare parts available to us, including two spare engines that will remain on the US East coast”, says De Smit.

Getting ready for boarding. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Getting ready for boarding. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The pilot's helmet is a integral part of the F-35's weapon system. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The pilot’s helmet is a integral part of the F-35’s weapon system. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Key missions

Surveying the deployment’s footprint is one of the objectives during the three week’s stay in the Netherlands, as is testing and evaluating ALIS, the logistical component that is crucial to F-35 operations but is also suffering from various software related issues. Last but not least, the system doesn’t yet interact with the aircraft’s Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine. De Smit: “It ‘ll be interesting to see how ALIS supports this deployment and is able to deliver us certain spare parts on short notice. Even if we don’t need to change parts, we’ll probably still order some parts from the US when we are in Europe, just to see how ALIS and the supply chain hold up.”

ALIS is known to be dependent on server access. The Dutch will experiment by not taking their dedicated server with them, but instead leaving it at Edwards and accessing it remotely from the Netherlands. Information gathered will be shared with the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). Several Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel will support the Dutch during the deployment, capturing data and lessons learned about ALIS and logistical challenges. Several US staff will travel along to support  security requirements for the two F-35s.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Taxiing to the active with the landmark Edwards tower in the background. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Study of an F-35. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
The crew at work to keep the jets spotless. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Shelters

Other than that, the deployment will also test how the F-35 interacts with the hardened aircraft shelter at Dutch airbases. “It will mark the first time the jet operates out of these shelters”, says De Smit. “Together with the F-35 JPO we are gathering data on the impact on both the aircraft, environment and human conditions.

Flying schedule

During their stay in the Netherlands, the two F-35s generate sorties taking part in the regular flight program, which will further stress the sustainment system of the aircraft. In 2015, the Dutch operated F-16s and F-35s alongside each other during tests at Edwards Air Force Base, highlighting the role of the F-35 as an intelligence platform that provides information to other fighter aircraft via data link systems. According to De Smit, it is not unlikely RNLAF F-16s and F-35s will operate alongside each other ‘for real’ in the 2018 – 2023 timeframe. In 2023, the final F-16 should leave Dutch service. De Smit:  “Also, beyond 2023 our F-35s will still have to interact with other allied and 4th generation jets.”

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A peek into the pilot’s office. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
At rest between missions. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Airshow

After also taking part in the Leeuwarden Airshow on 10 and 11 June – marking the F-35 international airshow debut ahead of the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough International Airshow in July – both F-35s will ferry back to Edwards and continue Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) there. That will involve getting the aircraft ready for Block 3 software that enables the firing of air-to-air munitions.

Meanwhile, the majority of Dutch taxpayers won’t see an F-35 again until 2019, when the first aircraft should start arriving at Leeuwarden to take the place of the F-16. At least, thanks to next week’s deployment those same taxpayers will know exactly what a Lightning II sounds like.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 seen an Edwards during the first week of May. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
About 40 Dutch personnel are based at Edwards. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Official: “RNLAF jets bombed Syria only four times”

The four Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM/BM fighter jets deployed to Jordan to bomb the so-called Islamic State forces in Syria, have only done that four times this year.

The information is included in a letter of Dutch minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert to the Dutch parliament in The Hague.

Communication limits have made the RNLAF jets less useful to international community fighting ISIS / ISIL / Daesh and the United States, which is leading the operations. Since February, when the F-16s were cleared for the Syrian operations, the aircraft only flew seven mission in total in the skies of that nation.

More on the problems with the operational usefulness of the Dutch F-16s in Syria, you can read on our earlier published article here on Airheadsfly.com.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16. (Image © Elmer van Hest)