Two Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs began their first much-anticipated deployment to Europe on May 23.
The aircraft, F-001 and F-002, arrived overhead Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands flanking RNLAF Gulfstream IV V-11, which had met up with them over the North Sea.
Pilots Col Bert ‘Vidal’ de Smit and Maj Pascal ‘Smiley’ Smaal conducted a flyby for the gathered crowd of nearly 2,000 base members, dignitaries and media before touching down at 9.00pm.
The Lightnings had departed Edwards AFB in California, where they were being used by the Dutch component of the F-35 Joint Operational Test Team, on May 21. The initial leg of their journey took them to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, where they were readied for the transatlantic crossing.
Refuelling support was provided by a pair of RNLAF KDC-10 tankers and the jets were followed by a USAF C-17A Globemaster III carrying spares and support equipment.
During a three-week stay in their home country, they will conduct test sorties and undertake so-called ‘perception flights’ accompanied by an F-16, flying practice circuits at Leeuwarden and Volkel air bases.
These are intended to enable local residents to experience both aircraft types so they can make noise comparisons between the two.
Over the course of 2017, more detailed noise measurements will be undertaken, prior to the arrival of the first permanently based F-35As in the Netherlands in 2019.