The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has received two more Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs in a delivery that marked the arrival of the final example for No 322 Squadron and the first aircraft destined to be operated from Volkel Air Base in North Brabant.
The two fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters – serials F-023 (c/n AN-23) and F-024 (c/n AN-24) – arrived at Leeuwarden Air Base, Friesland, in the afternoon of January 12. The F-35As arrived in the Netherlands following a delivery flight from the platform’s Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy.
Taking to social media, the RNLAF confirmed that serial F-024 will be the first F-35A for Volkel Air Base. While on its delivery flight to Leeuwarden, serial F-024 conducted a flyover at Volkel, with the Dutch base scheduled to receive its first F-35As in mid-2022.
The initial Volkel-based examples will be operated by No 313 Squadron – a former Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM (MLU) Fighting Falcon unit, which is currently being converted to the F-35A. Although the RNLAF is slowly phasing out its matured F-16AM/BM (MLU) fleet, the multi-role fighter is expected to remain in operational service until 2024/2025, when it will be replaced by the growing F-35A fleet.
While the Dutch government initially planned to acquire up to 85 F-35As, the number was reduced to 67 due to financial constraints and the rising costs of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. The RNLAF has so far received 24 F-35As, with the first eight having remained in the continental US for air/ground crew training and testing purposes as part of the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) 308th Fighter Squadron ‘Emerald Knights’ at Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona.
No 322 Squadron at Leeuwarden Air Base now has a full complement of 15 F-35As, following the delivery of the unit’s final example on January 12. The unit attained Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on December 27, 2021.