Aerial Warfare

F-35A to Take Over Nuclear Role of Royal Netherlands Air Force within NATO from F-16

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F-35A to Take Over Nuclear Role of Royal Netherlands Air Force within NATO from F-16

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F-35A to Take Over Nuclear Role of Royal Netherlands Air Force within NATO from F-16
F-35A to Take Over Nuclear Role of Royal Netherlands Air Force within NATO from F-16

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is set to take a next step in the transition from the F-16 to the F-35A. On 1 June 2024, the advanced fighter aircraft will fully take over the nuclear role of the Netherlands within NATO from the F-16. The Netherlands is one of the NATO Allies that contribute Dual-Capable Aircraft to NATO’s nuclear deterrence and is the first European country transitioning to the F-35 in that context. Netherlands Minister of Defence Kajsa Ollongren informed the Dutch House of Representatives today regarding the matter.

The Dutch transition from the F-16 to the F-35 for the nuclear role within NATO was initiated many years ago. In the last couple of years, the F-35 underwent a comprehensive testing and certification process for the nuclear role of the Netherlands. The RNLAF already started using the F-35 for conventional tasks. Similar to the F-16s, Volkel Air Base will be home to the Dual-Capable Aircraft F-35 squadron assigned to the nuclear role. The transition reaffirms the Royal Netherlands Air Force ’ long-term commitment to the Alliance’s nuclear deterrence.

NATO’s nuclear deterrence is essential to the security of the Alliance, and therefore also to the security of the Netherlands. The fundamental purposes of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. The Netherlands was the second international partner to receive the F-35, and continues to serve as a key contributor to the production and sustainment of the F-35 Lightning II advanced fighter. The Dutch are making plans to add to their F-35 fleet to increase the nation’s capability and capacity to engage in allied operations.

On 27 December 2021 the Netherlands declared initial operational capability (IOC) for its fleet of 24 F-35As that it has received to date from its order for 46 F-35As. In 2022, the Netherlands announced they will order an additional six F-35s, totaling 52 aircraft ordered. 39 F-35As delivered and operational, of which 8 trainer aircraft based at Luke Air Force Base in the USA. 52 Lockheed Martin F-35A multirole fighters ordered in total by Royal Netherlands Air Force.

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