Home Aircraft manufacturers Countries Publications About & contact
F-35 to The Netherlands (May 23 - June 14)
Latest update: June 2016
Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35A Lightning II
The Royal Netherlands Air Force selected the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II to replace its fleet of F-16AM/BM fighter aircraft. The Dutch MoD intends to purchase 37 aircraft.

Two Lightning's were purchased for the Test and Development phase. The aircraft are known as AN-1 / F-001 and AN-2 / F-002 (construction number / serial) and manufactured in Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) batches lot 3 and 4. The next order for eight aircraft was placed on December 21st, 2015. These aircraft will be produced in LRIP 11.

All aircraft are bought under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contracts. The US Navy is the prime contractor for all three F-35 variants (please see the order and production report for the F-35). The aircraft for The Netherlands have been or will be produced in two different plants:

Country: Plant: Production batch:
United States Ft. Worth Texas The two Test & Development aircraft LRIP 3 and 4, six aircraft LRIP 11.
Italy FACO, Cameri: Cameri (FACO) From the ninth aircraft (two aircraft LRIP 11).

Lockheed Martin contracted two Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facilities one in Italy and one in Japan.

The Lightning IIs will be based at the Main Operating Bases Leeuwarden and Volkel with the first aircraft to arrive in 2019. Leeuwarden Air Base will be the first to receive the new fighter with Volkel Air Base expected to see its first aircraft arrive in 2021. In 2023 the last F-16s are scheduled to be withdrawn from use.

Currently the two F-35As are operated by 323 TES (Test and Evaluation squadron) which stood down its F-16s operations at Leeuwarden and relocated to Edward Air Force Base, California.
Delivery of the first two aircraft was made to Eglin AFB, Florida were the RNLAF started its Test & Development program. Both aircraft were relocated to Edwards AFB, California when 323 TES stood up at the base to continue the program and initial pilot training.


Residents of both air bases would like to compare the jet noise made by the F-16 and F-35. Dutch minister of defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert therefore the initiated the Atlantic crossing of the Lightning's to the Netherlands. Both aircraft will flew missions called ' belevingsvluchten - experience flights' in conjunction with the local based F-16s. At the end of their three week stay in The Netherlands the aircraft will take part in the Luchtmachtdagen (Air Force Open House) held at Leeuwarden June 10-11. Based on the information on the MoD website it will be a static display.

In order to fly to the F-35s to the Netherlands one of the two KDC-10s from 334 squadron based at Eindhoven flew to Edwards AFD to conduct a series of air-to-air (AAR) mission which included day and night time AAR. After receiving the certification, which is also valid to refuel the USAF F-35As, the tanker returned home.

In the evening of May 23rd both Lightnings landed at Leeuwarden. Support during the flight was provided by the two KDC-10s while one C-17A Globemaster III from the Heavy Airlift Wing based at Papa in Hungary followed later. It took three days to reach The Netherlands. The journey started with a cross country flight in the USA from Edwards AFB to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. 'Pax River' is home to US Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons (VX) of which VX-23 is operating the F-35B and F-35C which are fielded to the US Marine Corps (F-35B and F-35C) and US Navy (F-35C). After one day of rest and flight preparations the fighter / tanker package departed the USA to Leeuwarden.

Photogallery (Belevingsvlucht Volkel Air Base May 26, 2016)

Photo sequence: F-35A and F-16AM during the afternoon mission. F-35A and F-16BM during the early evening mission. 
The Lightning on approach to runway 24R. F-35A turning towards final runway 24R.  Arrival at initial before executing the break.
Turning into the circuit for a low approach.  F-16AM turning towards final runway 24R.  In the circuit for landing runway 06L. 
On short final runway 24R.
Rear view of the F-35A Lightning II. 
Last low approach before returning 'home'.
On short final runway 24R.
Rear view of the F-16BM Fighting Falcon. Mission 'Belevingsvluchten' completed. 'wheels up' and return to base. 

F-35 to The Netherlands day-to-day program / flights.

Date: Program:
May 19th The first KDC-10 flew to Edwards AFB.
May 20th
The second KDC-10 departed Eindhoven to Edwards AFB.
May 21st Both F-35s and KDC-10s completed their ferry flight from Edwards AFB to NAS Patuxent River.
May 22nd 'Rest' day at Pax River while completing necessary checks and preparations for Atlantic crossing.
May 23rd

Both F-35As (F-001 and F-002) together with both KDC-10s left NAS Patuxent River 45 minutes later then originally planned to start their Atlantic crossing. The arrival was planned at 20.00 but became 21.00

Late afternoon the sole Dutch Gulfstream IV landed at Leeuwarden with the minister of defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. Around 19.00 the aircraft with the minister and RNLAF commander Lt.Gen. Sander Schnitger departed towards Scotland to meet the fighter / tanker formation and escort them to Leeuwarden. A little later also two F-16s took-off to be part of the welcoming committee / escort. After a photo shoot over the Wadden eilanden the Gulfstream and Lightning IIs joined into a formation and performing a fly-past at Leeuwarden AB. The Gulfstream then landed as well as one of the F-16s. The other F-16 joined F-001 as wingman for the approach to Leeuwarden. With F-001 landing at runway 05 becoming the first F-35A to land in The Netherlands the F-16 continued is flight joining F-002 as wingman and completing the same approach and landing procedure after which it landed itself.

After landing F-001 waited for F-002 to taxi towards the ramp. Before shutting down their engines one the ramp they received the traditional water salute by the two fire crews. Both pilots, Lt. Col.
Bert de Smit and Maj. Pascal Smaal were welcomed by minister Hennis-Plasschaert, General Schnitger, Col. Traas (base commander Leeuwarden). Except the press also the residents of the surrounding villages were invited to witness the arrival of the Lightning's.

Of the KDC-10s one landed at Leeuwarden to unload personnel and support equipment and the other returning to home base Eindhoven. At that time one of the Heavy Airlift Wing C-17A Globemaster III was still enroute to the base with the rest of the equipment needed to support the three week deployment. The aircraft arrived during the night.
May 24th

This day was most likely day spend on completing checks and preparations for the 'belevingsvluchten'. Late afternoon the RNLAF communicated the 'Belevingsvluchten' planned for the 25th were cancelled.
May 25th

The intended 'Belevingsvluchten' to take place during the afternoon and early evening were cancelled and rescheduled to the 26th based on the weather reports for both days.
One F-35A made a local flight with F-16s, not related to the 'Belevingsvluchten' during the afternoon.
May 26th

The 'Belevingsvluchten' were held at both Leeuwarden and Volkel Air Bases. F-35A 'F-002' conducted both the afternoon and early evening mission at Volkel. The Lightning II was followed by an F-16 (afternoon a F-16AM, evening a F-16BM) of 322 Squadron based at Leeuwarden. The patterns flown was according to the normal arrival and departure procedures.

Around 14.45 the Lightning made an approach (long final) to runway 24R performing a touch and go and then set up to initial with a break entering the circuit for another approach. The same approach and departure procedures were flown from the opposite direction runway 06L. Then again runway 24R was used with the F-35A landing. After being refueled it departed with afterburner (AB) and returned to Leeuwarden. The afterburner departure was requested by the people living in the vicinity of Volkel so they could experience this noise as well.

The evening saw the same 'flying program' as the afternoon with one change. The landing of the F-35A with subsequent afterburner departure was replaced by a low approach after which the aircraft departed back to Leeuwarden.
May 27th

The first results of the flights were published on the MoD website. The National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) provided a survey for the residents of the Air Bases while at the same time
meassuring the sounds by using the data collected by the equipment set up at nine locations near both bases.

The initial report, based in the flights conducted in the afternoon, concluded that there were not many difference experienced in the noise of both fighters. The NLR is wrapping up its report including the results of the flights conducted in the evening.
May 28th - 29th Weekend.
May 30th A mission has been flown by one F-35A in the afternoon.
Jun 1st A media flight was conducted by a KDC-10 and F-35A 'F-002'.
June 2nd

The RNLAF planned a flight over The Netherlands (see map below) in the afternoon with a F-35A and photoship F-16BM. The flight to take place at 1.200 feet (400 meters) was cancelled due to the low cloud base hampering the viewing from the ground.

In the morning both aircraft had conducted a mission and with the cancellation of the tour they flew a also a mission in the afternoon. Both Gilze-Rijen (home to the Defence Helicopter Command) and Woensdrecht (home to the RNLAF basic pilot training) saw the Lightnings performing an approach to the air base.
June 3rd Event at Leeuwarden for invited neighbors in the afternoon.
June 4th - 5th Weekend.
June 6th

The defence committe of the Dutch parliament (2e kamer) visited Leeuwarden to be updated on the F-35A program.
June 7th

In the afternoon the flight over The Netherlands took place. After the cancellation due to the weather on June 2nd the route was revised (see maps below). F-35A 'F-001' flown by Lt. Col. Bert de Smid was accompanied by a F-16BM photoship to photograph the Lightning II over the Royal Netherlands Air Force bases and important sites (RNLAF headquarters in Breda, National Military Museum at Soesterberg) and other landmarks.
June 8th

In the morning the RNLAF rehearsed its Air Power Demo (APD) which included one F-35A. Later afternoon the second rehearsal was flown which saw both Lightnings taking part in the APD.
June 9th

With the day being the main arrival day for the Luchtmachtdagen (RNLAF Open House) no flights by the resident 322 squadron (F-16) and the F-35s were made.
June 10th and 11th

Both aircraft participated in the Air Power Demo. On Saturday after landing the aircraft were placed on static display (runway 27). A mock-up F-35 was placed on static display.
June 12th Weekend.
June 13th

This day was most likely day spend on completing checks and preparations for the return flight to the USA.
June 14th

In the morning two KDC-10s took off from Schiphol airport were they relocated a day before to support the crossing of the Atlantic ocean. Both F-35s followed later to join the tankers. The first destination was Bangor on the east coast of the USA. Here the F-35 pilots were replaced by a new crew who flew the aircraft on the final leg to Edwards AFB, California.

A Heavy Airlift Wing C-17A Globemaster III arrived at Leeuwarden to transport the equipment back to Edwards AFB.

Lightning II Flight over The Netherlands June 7th

Originally the flight was for Thursday June 2nd. However due to a low cloud base over most of the locations to be visited and preventing the view from the ground the flight was cancelled. The tour over The Netherlands took place in the afternoon of Tuesday June 7th with F-35A 'F-001' flown by Lt.Col. Bert de Smit and accompanied by a F-16BM photoship.

  Maps courtesy of the Ministry of Defence.  

Photogallery (Tour over The Netherlands former Soesterberg Air Base)

Inbound after visiting paleis Soestdijk at 15.02 arriving at Soesterberg turning towards the former runway 13 - 31.
F-35A (left) and F-16BM in formation in 
front of the National Military Museum (NMM) heading towards Arnhem after the fly-by at Soesterberg.

Lightning II International Air Show debut

The F-35 Lightning international air show debut was made by the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Both F-35As participated in the Air Power Demo on June 10 and 11. Flying together and alongside the F-16s the presented themselves to the public.

Taking part in the Air Power Demo marked the international air show debut  by the Lightning II.

More photo's can be found at Luchtmachtdagen 2016 Leeuwarden.

The next international displays are planned to take place by United States and United Kingdom Lightning IIs at the annual Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT 2016) held at RAF Fairford July 8-10 and at the bi-annual Farnborough International Air Show held at July 11-17.

F-35 Lightning II debut of Atlantic ocean crossing

An Italian Air Force F-35A (AL-1) was the first Lightning II to cross the Atlantic ocean with a flight from Italy to Patuxent River with a stop-over at Lajes, Azores Portugal on February 5th. It then continued to Luke AFB, Arizona where the F-35A pilot training for Australia, Italy, Norway and the USA takes place. This aircraft was followed by AL-2 and AL-3 on May 18th.