The Royal Netherlands Air Force Has Declared Its F-35A Operational

Two Dutch F-35s in flight. (Image credit: KLu).

The Dutch F-35A aircraft have achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability).

On Dec. 27, 2021, the Netherlands MOD and Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) have officially declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for their F-35A fleet. As a consequence, the Netherlands have become the eighth country with the RNLAF being the 12th military service to declare IOC for its F-35 fleet.

The IOC “certifies” that the RNLAF is able to deploy a small contingent of 4 F-35As with personnel and equipment anywhere in the world for a short period of time: in other words, the Dutch Lightnings can be deployed operationally in theatre, to support national and multi-national operations.

The IOC milestone was achieved after going through several steps and a series of exercises at home and abroad, including a 9,000-km-long surprise attack on a Dutch Range as part of a “Rapid Reaction Test”, and exercise Frisian Lightning II that saw the 322 Sqn move from Leeuwarden to Volkel to prepare the unit for a deployment in the shortest possible time. In addition, the knowledge gained during the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) has led to this milestone.

A total of 24 F-35As have been delivered to the RNLAF so far. The first operational F-35s arrived in the Netherlands from the Cameri FACO (Final Assembly and Check Out) in 2019. Dutch crews have surpassed more than 9,085 flight hours to date, with 55 pilots and 262 maintainers supporting the fleet.

“The declaration of IOC ushers in a new era of air power that gives the RNLAF transformational capabilities,” F-35 Program Vice President and General Manager Bridget Lauderdale said. “I am proud of the Lockheed Martin team’s commitment to delivering the most effective, survivable and connected fighter to our partners in the Netherlands.”

According to the current plans, by the end of 2024, 46 F-35As will replace the current fleet of F-16 MLU in RNLAF service.

A Dutch F-35A (Image credit: KLu)
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.