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.
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
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.