Two new Lightning II aircraft destined to the RNLAF have flown for the first time in Italy.
The Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force), has already been delivered 24 F-35A Lightning II aircraft. The RNLAF has a plan to procure a total of at least 46 F-35As, 37 of those have already been ordered, to replace the current fleet of F-16 MLU. The first operational F-35s arrived in the Netherlands from the Cameri FACO (Final Assembly and Check Out), in northwestern Italy, in 2019.
The Netherlands have become the eighth country with the RNLAF being the 12th military service to declare IOC for its F-35 fleet when, on Dec. 27, 2021, the Netherlands MOD and Royal Netherlands Air Force have declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for their F-35A fleet. On that date, Dutch crews had surpassed more than 9,085 flight hours, with 55 pilots and 262 maintainers supporting the fleet.
The 24th F-35A was delivered to 322 Squadron at Leeuwarden Air Base in January, although the first aircraft for the second Dutch Lightning unit, the 313 Squadron have already begun arriving at Volkel Air Base also.
On Feb. 24, 2022, two RNLAF F-35A Lightning II from Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands were deployed to Graf Ignatievo AB, to reinforce NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe. The Dutch Ministry of Defence had previously announced the plan to deploy two of its 5th generation jets to Bulgaria between March and April, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed the initial plan.
Meanwhile, test flights for the new F-35As for the RNLAF have begun. On Mar. 1, 2022, the airframe F-025 (AN-25) has made its maiden flight, followed, on the next day (Mar. 2) by F-026 (AN-26). These are the 25th and 26th aircraft destined to the KLu.
In both test flights, the Lightnings has a Eurofighter F-2000A sporting the markings of the 51° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) but flown by a pilot of the RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Italian Air Force Test Wing) as chase aircraft.
The shots in this article were taken by photographer and friend Paolo Rollino during the recent test flights from Cameri AB.