At Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs currently owned by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), are being prepared to fly to Edwards Air Force Base. At the Californian airbase, the Dutch wil continue the Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) phase. Meanwhile Christopher C. Bogdan, program executive officer for the F-35, meets with Dutch parliament on Tuesday 13 January.
Update 17 January 2015: both Dutch F-35s have been ferried to Edwards. A pic of the flight is found here. Both aircraft have been given an ‘OT’ tail code,
The two Dutch F-35s are operated in the US by 323 squadron, formerly based at Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands. Four pilots are getting to know the F-35 thoroughly, with the first one now having over one year of experience on the aircraft. At Edwards, the Dutch should further broaden their expertise on the aircraft.
The first new fighters are expected in the Netherlands no sooner than 2019, with Leeuwarden receiving two aircraft that year. Late 2021, Volkel airbase should welcome its first F-35. That same year, the number of F-35s should be up to 26, with 37 reached in 2023. Of those, five (eight initially) will remain in the US for training and testing purposes at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The two F-35s now transferring to Edwards, will eventually also end up at Luke.
Formal order The Dutch decision to buy 37 F-35s was hard fought. F-35 program executive officer Christopher C. Bogdan is in the Netherlands today to talk about the program. The first formal Dutch order for eight aircraft is expected later this year, which eight more each year until 2018. The final order for three aircraft should be placed in 2019.
The number of Dutch F-16s is to dwindle from 61 now, to 45 in 2021 and 24 in 2023, which is to be the final year of Dutch F-16 operations. The type has been in service for an astonishing 44 years then.
Various European air forces are looking into the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II as their next fighter aircraft. The Netherlands has already decided on buying 37 aircraft despite fears of excessive noise in the densely populated areas surrounding Dutch airbases. Tests by the F-35 Joint Program Office and US Air Force Research Laboratory have now concluded the F-35 is indeed considerably noisier than current Dutch F-16s, according to a report released on Friday 31 October 2014.
During tests on the ground, the F-35 noise levels proved to be similar to late model Lockheed Martin F-16s, equipped with Pratt & Whitney F-100 PW229 engines. In military power the F-35A produces 145 decibels, while in afterburner the noise level rises to 146 decibels. The F-16 produce virtually the same sound levels while on the ground. Other modern fighter aircraft create equal noise levels while on the ground.
The difference is in airborne situations, where there’s a significant rise in noise level compared to most European F-16s, which are early models equipped with the PW220 variant of the Pratt & Whitney F-100 engine. Dutch F-16s use the same engine. During take off in military power, the F-16 generates 103 decibels while at 1000 feet over the ground. The F-35A, the model purchased by the Netherlands, produces 112 decibels in the same situation.
In the circuit before landing, F-16 noise levels are at 79 decibels while at 1,500 feet over the ground. The F-35A is louder: 91 decibels. A straight in landing with the F-35A generates 95 decibels against 79 again for the F-16 with the PW220 engine variant.
As the report states, ‘the F-35A is generally louder for all conditions when compared to
the F-16 with the earlier PW220 engine’. And that’s a message that will not sit well with local communities around Dutch airbases. Both Volkel and Leeuwarden airbase will house F-35A aircraft in the future.
LATEST UPDATE 25 MARCH 2014 20:20 UTC | The armed forces of the Netherlands have turned a former navy air station into an airhead for the huge international Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in the area of The Hague from 23 to 26 March 2014. The US Army and US Marines landed nearby.
Five AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, 4 AS532U2 Cougar tactical transport choppers and 2 CH-47D Chinook medium-lift helicopters of the Royal Netherlands Air Force have as of 21 March 2014 been temporarily forwarded to ex-NAS Valkenburg near the Dutch governmental city, together with 500 personnel. Their number will increase to 19 helicopter of the armed forces and the national police, with at least three of the police’s Eurocopter EC135s on location. On Saterday a sixth RNLAF AH-64D arrived on Valkenburg, followed on Sunday by two National Police AW139s.
RNLAF F-16 Fighting Falcons will provide air coverage during the summit, with a pair of Vipers airborne at any time. They will enforce a declared no-fly zone above The Hague and hotels in Noordwijk near Amsterdam and intercept any threats. Extra F-16s will be put on alpha scramble alert on both Leeuwarden and Volkel airbases. Surface to air missiles have been put on five different locations in the crowded west of the country. See here a few photos of the RNLAF F-16s that flew CAP missions.
Tanker & AWACS
Eindhoven Airbase deploys 2 RNLAF KDC-10 tanker aircraft to refuel F-16s in the air, while NATOs AWACS fleet at German Geilenkirchen – near the Dutch border – has put 2 E-3 Sentry aircraft on alert. The Royal Netherlands Navy deployes air defence frigate Zr. Ms. De Zeven Provinciën off the coast, with corvettes Zr. Ms. Holland and Friesland in support with each of the corvettes having a NH-90 helicopter on board. The Coast Guard (Kustwacht) also deployed several vessels and is likely to put their Do-228s airborne as well.
During the NSS – with the actual summit days only on 24 and 25 March – a total number of 13,000 police and 8,000 Dutch military personnel will try to guarantee safety: 4,000 from the army, air force and navy plus 4,000 from the military police. The air situation picture during and from these days will not be shared via online media.
Rotterdam-The Hague Airport
Rotterdam Airport has seen several arrivals the last couple of days, including six US Army UH-60 Black Hawks arriving on 18 March. Two Presidential VH-60s and other stuff arrived by three USAF C-17A Globemasters on 15 (1 aircraft) and 19 (2 aircraft) March 2014. Check some images here. Another four C-17s landed on Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport.
The 58 world leaders and their entourage of 5,000 members will arrive in aircraft at Amsterdam-Schiphol IAP, where the so-called Polderbaan (Runway 18R – 36L) will be used for parking. Schiphol has already closed it down since 10 March and will execute scheduled maintenance after the nuclear summit. A relatively vast area around the runway will be a special secured area during the event.
From the following countries VIPs (and their aircraft) are expected: Argentine, Armenia (A319CJ), Australia, Azerbaijan (B767-300ER), Belgium, Brazil (VC-99B), Canada (CC-150), Chile, China (B747), the Czech Republic, Denmark (CL-604), Egypt, Finland, France (Falcon 7X), Gabon (B777), Georgia (G450), Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy (Falcon 900EX), Japan (2x B747-400), Jordan, Kazakhstan (A330-200), Lithuania (C-27J), Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria (B737BBJ), Norway, Pakistan (G450), Poland (ERJ175-200LR), the Philippines, Republic of Korea (B747-400), Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland (Falcon 900EX), Thailand, Turkey (B737-800), Ukraine (IL-62), the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States of America (VC-25A “Air Force One”, Gulfstream C-37B (G500), C-32 and more) and Vietnam (B777-200ER). Images of the arriving government aircraft can be found here.
One of the aircraft spotted early on at Schiphol was a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150. Also the Chinese start early with an official state visit of the Chinese president on 22 and 23 March to the Netherlands ahead of the NSS2014. As it is custom during these state visits the Air China Boeing 747 was accompanied from the Dutch border by a pair of RNLAF F-16s. See images of these scrambled aircraft here.
Source: Ministerie van Defensie (the Netherlands MoD) / Nederlandse Politie (the Netherlands National Police), with additional reporting by AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger
It’s extraordinary to think that back in the early seventies, an average computer was the size of an average refrigerator. But that probably wasn’t what was going on in the mind of test pilot Phil Oestricher when he – albeit unintended – took the YF-16 to the air for the first time forty years ago, on 20 January 1974. It was the soon to be first large scale mass produced fighter jet flying with microchips and fly-by-wire, and boy did it almost end in disaster. Eventually of course, it came out a winner – and the flying proof of a digital, computerized future.
Oestricher and the people at General Dynamics must have watched in horror as the prototype YF-16, stuffed with micro computer technology that was basically unheard of in those days, accidentally got airborne during a fast taxi test at Edwards Air Force Base. What followed was an almost comical struggle between a pilot – wanting not to fly – and his aircraft wanting to fly. In the end, Oestricher (read his story here) decided to take the aircraft up. He landed back at Edwards immediately after, safely ending what later became known as ‘flight zero’. Two weeks later, he took the YF-16 up for the official ‘first’ flight.
That wobbly ‘flight zero’ in no way illustrates the phenomenal success the General Dynamics F-16 Fighter Falcon – or Electric Jet or Viper – became soon afterwards. As small as the aircraft is – 14.8 meters long and 9.8 meters wide – as big was and still is its commercial success. The USAF was of course the first user, but in ‘The Sale Of The Century’ the F-16 was also sold by the hundreds to Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. The deal was signed following the 1975 Paris Le Bourget airshow, where pilot Neil Anderson demonstrated the previously unseen manoeuverability of the YF-16.
Nowadays, 24 countries use the various further developed versions of the original YF-16. The two prototypes were followed by several pre-production aircraft, after which serial production started on three lines, which eventually became five lines in as many countries. The A/B versions were followed by the C/D versions. More recently E/F and I versions entered service. More obscure Fighting Falcons are the delta winged F-16XL and the General Electric J-79 equipped F-16/79. The US Navy’s (T)F-16N aggressor aircraft were also relatively short-lived.
More than 4,540 F-16s have been produced, mostly at the Lockheed Martin production line at Fort Worth. Apart from the four first European customers, Israel, Venezuela and Pakistan were among the early adopters as well, ordering aircraft in the early eighties. More recent customers include Chile, Morocco and Iraq. Lockheed Martin took over General Dynamics in 1993 and now has 48 aircraft remaining on order, according to a statement released on Thursday. Among the remaining orders are aircraft for Oman and Iraq. When asked, the company wouldn’t comment on any special activities relating to the Vipers’ 40th birthday.
Many Vipers have changed ownership already, with the US selling or leasing lots of of their surplus aircraft to other countries. Early model F-16A and B aircraft soon found their way to Israel, and later on similar aircraft were also delivered to Jordan. A small number of US F-16Cs went to Indonesia.
Belgium and the Netherlands are also in the business of selling Vipers abroad, customers being Jordan and Chile. Some F-16s are third hand already, as Portugal sold second hand Vipers to Romania last year.
In the pocket
The whine of either the Pratt and Whitney PW220 or General Electric F110 that equips the F-16 will be heard for many years to come, as Vipers are started up at airfields around the world to fill and patrol the skies. The computerized F-16 paved the way for many military and commercial airplanes, and also for many technological applications that are now standard in every household, and possibly even in the pocket of your jeans – if that’s where you keep your cellphone.
It’s extraordinary to think what an impact this little agile fighter has had. It sure didn’t look that way on 20 January 1974. Cheers!
According to several Dutch newspapers (Dutch only), Volkel is to become the main operating base for the F-35A Lightning II aircraft. Of the 37 aircraft about to be ordered, 25 are to be based in Volkel in the southern part of the Netherlands. The rest of the aircraft will be used for training in the United States, for missions abroad and for exercises at Leeuwarden airbase, now still home to two F-16 squadrons.
The reports are based on Dutch MoD findings, although officials will not comment on them. Suggestions are that one Leeuwarden’s F-16 squadrons (322 and 323) will face the axe. The most famous Dutch air force unit is 322 Squadron, which finds its roots in World War II. The squadron’s mascot is a parrot. The other unit is 323 Squadron, also occupied with tactical training and airborne tests.
In the end, Leeuwarden will be home to no more than twelve F-35’s, according to the newspaper reports.