Tag Archives: Royal Netherlands Air Force

The hours

An US Air Force F-16D seen at Luke Air Force Base in October 2000. This is a similar aircraft to the US F-16 that hit 7,238 flying hours, many more then any Dutch F-16 has ever clocked. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
An US Air Force F-16D seen at Luke Air Force Base in October 2000. This is a similar aircraft to the US F-16 that hit 7,238 flying hours, many more than any Dutch F-16 has ever clocked. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

There is an ongoing shady discussion in the Netherlands about a speedy replacement of the current F-16s with spankin’ new F-35A Lightnings. Shady, because it partly revolves around the number of flying hours the F-16s clocked up so far. We crunch some numbers and find out some numbers are far more impressive than others.

Just take a quick look at this stuff, the answer of the Dutch Ministry of Defence on questions from Dutch parliament about the number of flying hours per Dutch F-16. It shows that the aircraft with registration J-637 is the champion of all, having flown 4,893 flying hours already by December 2011. That’s a lot … Until we read this, about an USAF F-16 that happily flew 7,238 hours. This is stuff we love!

Yearly, each Dutch F-16 spends 180 hours in the air – give or take a few hours – so our hero J-637 now probably has over 5,000 flying hours. The Dutch MoD claims that its Fighting Falcons are getting old and require more and more maintenance.

Sounds logical. But why then is an American F-16 of similar age – the US high-flyer was delivered in 1984, while J-637 was delivered the year before – capable of spending 7,238 hours in the air while the Dutch fighters apparently start falling apart after 4,500 hours or so. Upgrades such as Pacer SLIP and Falcon Up should have prolonged service life beyond 6,000 flying hours, and have been costing the Dutch taxpayers millions and millions of euros. A service life of 8,000 hours was even mentioned back then. Recent updates to newer US aircraft even go as far as to give 10,000 hours of life for each airframe.

The usual argument is that Dutch F-16s were used more extensively then originally planned, for example during operations over Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. That’s probably true, although a lot of flying time is actually spent high up in the air, waiting for the close-air-support call or just looking for a tanker. Not exactly the most stressfull situation for any airframe. And still: the US high-flyer spent most of its years in the hands of inexperienced trainee pilots at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. That’s a lot of hard landings, bumpy rides and mishandling. And besides that, a day at the fence of Luke shows based F-16s flying around with the same heavy weaponry that supposedly stressed out the Dutch Vipers all these years. For the record, Dutch F-16 J-015 – the current demo aircraft – only has 3,500 hours or so at this moment.

The Norwegians and the Danish – not to mention the Israelis (how about their flying hours?) – are still happily flying their oldest vintage 1978 F-16s, while the Dutch put those aside more than a decade ago, stripping them for parts and throwing the remains in the bin.

Dutch F-16AM J-254 was taken out of service years ago and clocked up a number flying hours that almost certain wasn' t anywhere close to 7,238 hours. The aircraft's tail number is not mentioned in the Dutch MoD documents, because it is not operational anymore.  (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Dutch F-16AM J-254 was taken out of service years ago and clocked up a number flying hours that almost certain wasn’t anywhere close to 7,238 hours. The aircraft’s tail number is not mentioned in the Dutch MoD documents, because this aircraft is not operational anymore. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

The Americans know how to treat an aircraft that fulfilled its task. Their high-flyers are resting in the Arizona desert, having done their job. We will not mention that even those aircraft will return to the sky as QF-16s, clocking up even more hours, only to be finally shot to pieces as live targets. How’s that for scrapping?

© 2013 AIRheads’ Elmer van Hest

Check out the Royal Netherlands Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl

Dutch F-35 delivered, to be stored

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 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.

Source: NL Ministry of Defence / AIRheads↑Fly

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Right now: Hot Blade 2013 in Portugal

FAP Agusta Westland EH-101 Merlin 15904 (Image © Força Aérea Portuguesa)
FAP Agusta Westland EH-101 Merlin 15904 (Image © Força Aérea Portuguesa)

If you like choppers, Portugal is the place to be these days as the Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa; FAP) hosts the multinational helicopter exercise Hote Blade 13 at Ovar Airbase near the city of Porto.

Hot Blade 13 will see the involvement of 38 aircraft, including two Agusta Westland EH-101 Merlin helicopters from the FAP itself and possibly even a few of the FAP’s F-16 fighter aircraft.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force contributes an Eurocopter AS 532U2 Mk II Cougar and as much as up to five Boeing CH-47D/F Chinooks.

The Austrian Air Force sent three Agusta Bell AB 212s and three Bell OH-58 Kiowas. Four Belgian Air Component Agusta A109BAs has joined the exercise, as well as up to eight German Army UH-1D ‘Hueys’.

Hot Blade 13 started on July 17th and will last till July 31st.

Source: Força Aérea Portuguesa, NL Ministerie van Defensie

Dutch F-16s snap 3 million images of Afghanistan

RecceLite pod on a RNLAF F-16 (Image © NL Ministry of Defence)
RecceLite pod on a RNLAF F-16 (Image © NL Ministry of Defence)

A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 fighter made the 3 millionth Dutch image of Afghanistan with the photo reconnaissance system RecceLite in mid-June.

The Koninlijke Luchtmacht (KLu) detachment has been using the recce pod in Afghanistan since 2009, making tens of thousands of photos every day. They help to detect so-called improvised explosive devices (‘home-made bombs’) that pose a threat to soldiers and civilians on the ground.

According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force are the only assets in northern Afghanistan to use advanced photo recon technology.

KLu F-16 also provide close air support when requested by NATO/ISAF command and have been doing that ever since the multi-role fighters were first deployed in the Asian country in 2002.

Source: Press release NL MoD

Check out the Royal Netherlands Air Force Orbat at Scramble.nl