Mar 5, 2015
Netherlands approves first F-35 production order
The Royal Netherlands Air Force is already operating two F-35As, which were acquired to enable the service to participate in US-led initial operational test and evaluation of the Joint Strike Fighter. In early February, these were moved from Eglin AFB in Florida to Edwards AFB in California.
From its next batch of eight F-35As, which will be assembled at Lockheed’s Fort Worth site in Texas, six will remain at a multinational pilot training centre in Luke AFB, Arizona until the end of the transition process in 2023. The two test aircraft now at Edwards AFB will also be relocated to Luke on the completion of the IOT&E activity.
Once the Dutch air force has completed its transition to the new type, five aircraft will remain in the USA for training and testing purposes. The rest of its fleet will be used to form three squadrons based in the Netherlands.
Three further batches of eight aircraft each will be ordered between 2016 and 2018, before a final three are expected to be purchased in 2019, to complete an operational buy of 35. All of these will be delivered from a final assembly and check-out centre built at Cameri air base in Italy under a joint venture between Lockheed and Alenia Aermacchi.
The first operational unit in the Netherlands will be 322 Sqn at Leeuwarden air base.
Achieving IOC status will make it possible for the air force to provide four aircraft and sufficient crews for international missions for a period of three to four months.
Full operational status with all three frontline units – including the Volkel-based 312 and 313 squadrons – should be achieved in 2024. The defence ministry plans to have 29 combat-ready pilots for an operational force of 32 F-35As, with the other aircraft in regular maintenance.