October 25, 2013

Dutch to commence F-35 training

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is to shortly begin training air and ground personnel on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the country's Defence Minister disclosed on 9 October.

Speaking to parliament in the Hague, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said that RNLAF pilots and technicians will begin training at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida at the end of October. The disclosure comes weeks after she announced that the Netherlands will procure a total of 37 JSFs to replace the RNLAF's Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The pilots will start off with theoretical training and begin flying with the JSF in December. The training aims to prepare pilots and maintenance personnel for the operational test phase beginning in 2015.

The Netherlands will participate in both parts of this phase, testing the JSF's Block 2 software starting in 2015, followed by the testing of Block 3 software in 2017-2018. Dutch participation in the first part of the operational test phase was made possible by a delay in the start of the operational test phase and the extension of its duration, Hennis-Plasschaert told parliament. Dutch personnel will join their US and UK counterparts who have already completed a year of the initial two-year operational test phase.

The two Dutch F-35A conventional take-off and landing aircraft (AN-1, delivered in April 2012, and AN-2 delivered in March 2013) are currently at Eglin AFB. The two aircraft, along with the Dutch personnel, will move to Edwards AFB in California for the second part of the operational test phase.
Hennis-Plasschaert described the beginning of Dutch training at the end of October as an "irreversible step" in the Netherlands' JSF programme.

Participation in the operational test phase will cost the Netherlands EUR21.6 million (USD29.3 million) at current prices, and operating the two Dutch JSFs between 2013 and 2018 will cost EUR52.6 million (USD71.3 million), excluding munition usage.

The first F-35 Lightning II for the Netherlands rolled out of the Fort Worth production facility

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