The fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters will deploy to join NATO’s enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission along Europe’s eastern flank for the months of February and March. The eight aircraft will be split into two segments, with four of the F-35As set to be constantly employed on Air Policing missions. The other four will remain in Poland for training and to carry out joint exercises with NATO allies and will also be available to augment the four dedicated Air Policing aircraft, if required.
In the Netherlands, the RNLAF regularly police the skies off the BENELUX (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) area alongside the Belgian Air Force - a mission both air arms have jointly conducted since 2017. When it comes to Air Policing operations abroad, the RNLAF's now outgoing fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcons have performed the mission in the past with deployments to Lithuania's Siauliai AB in 2005 and 2017, and to Malbork AB following Russia's invasion and illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014.
This upcoming deployment will mark the second time the Netherlands has sent its new F-35As for Air Policing missions on Europe's eastern flank, as they deployed Lightning IIs to Bulgaria in May 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The Dutch F-35As will join French, German and Polish fighters that are also performing Air Policing missions in the Baltic region. The Polish Air Force has four of its F-16C Block 52+ Fighting Falcons at Siauliai AB, alongside four French Air and Space Force-operated Dassault Rafale F3-Rs. Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) are operating Eurofighter EF-2000s out of Amari AB in Estonia.
Lt Col Guido Schols, commander of the RNLAF F-35 detachment, said: “With these eight modern fighter aircraft, the Netherlands contribute to NATO’s Air Policing and Air Shielding missions in deterring and if required defending allied territory in the Baltic region. We are also assuring our allies and demonstrating our commitment to the NATO alliance."