THE KONINKLIJKE Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force, RNLAF) is to receive a further nine F-35As in addition to the 37 already ordered. The additional jets are included in next year’s defence budget, which provides a little more than US$3.32bn (€3bn) extra to spend within a total budget of US$12.2bn (€11.035bn).
Currently, six RNLAF F-35As (serials F-003 to F-008) are based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, with the 308th Fighter Squadron for training, while the 323 Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards AFB, California, continues to operate the two F-35As (serials F-001 and F-002) delivered back in 2013.
The first operational F-35A for the RNLAF made its maiden flight on September 9 from the Final Assembly and Check- Out (FACO) line in Cameri, Italy. This aircraft, F-009 (c/n AN-09) had its official rollout during a ceremony at Cameri three days later. It’s expected that this aircraft will arrive at Leeuwarden Air Base on October 31. All remaining Dutch F-35s will be built in Italy.
As part of its latest budget provisions, the RNLAF also will launch a programme to replace its 13 PC-7 trainers as well as modernise its 20 NH90s, and plans to field a successor to the sole Gulfstream IV are confirmed.