The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF, Koninklijke Luchtmacht) has begun populating its second unit for operating the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), with the first aircraft for 313 Squadron have now begun arriving at Volkel Air Base. However, for 313 Squadron with such a long history, there is little to tell, for the Sqn was mostly an Operational Conversion Unit (OCU). The Operational status came to an end in 1988 with the arrival of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. By April 1990, 313 Became Operational again as an offensive and defensive Sqn. In late 2020 the F-16’s together with Pilots and Groundcrew were all moved to 312 Sqn, and 313 Sqn started to operate under the 3yy Squadron designation the start to prepare for the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force’s second operating unit came days after the service declared initial operating capability (IOC) for the F-35A in late December 2021. For the RNLAF, IOC means four aircraft are available for expeditionary taskings for a period of three to four months. This means that a Dutch unit of four F-35s with associated personnel and equipment can be rapidly deployed to any part of the world for a short amount of time. The Netherlands has therefore joined a select company of eight countries. Those that preceded the Netherlands include Australia, the UK, Italy, Norway, and the US. The service is expected to declare full operating capability for the type in 2024.
Announced on 27 December, the milestone sees the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) become the 12th global military service to declare it’s F-35s ready for operations. The RNLAF is to procure at least 46 F-35As, of which, 24 have so far been delivered (a number of these are retained in the United States for international training and test and evaluation purposes). The type is operated by 322 Squadron at Leeuwarden Air Base, with a second operational unit to be stood up at Volkel Air Base in due course. In Dutch service, the F-35A will replace the Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon. The last F-35A is expected to be delivered in 2023, with a full operating capability set to follow in 2024.
More than 25 suppliers from across the Dutch industry are participating in critical technology development and strategic structural design ventures integral to the F-35 program, along with high-volume production, which includes composites, bonded assemblies, and aircraft wiring. This high-technology work leverages the Netherlands’ past performance experience and expertise on the F-16 program to maintain high-quality program execution. Every F-35 contains components manufactured by Dutch companies. With the introduction of advanced technologies, Dutch industries are strategically positioned to participate in the production of more than 3,000 F-35 aircraft over the life of the program.