The first operational F-35A to the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force, RNLAF) was formally handed over by Lockheed Martin on January 30. The Lightning II, F-003 (AN-03), the third built for the RNLAF, was transferred to Dutch ownership during a rollout ceremony at the factory in Fort Worth, Texas.
As previously reported, this aircraft made its maiden flight at Fort Worth last December 15 – see Third Dutch F-35A flies, February, p11. It was preceded by two trials aircraft, F-001 (AN-01) and F-002 (AN-02), which were delivered in 2013 and are now at Edwards Air Force Base, California, for operational testing with 323 Test and Evaluation Squadron.
Three more RNLAF F-35As have since taken to the air at Fort Worth – F-004 (AN-04), F-005 (AN-05) and F-006 (AN-06) made their respective maiden flights on January 8, 23 and 28. Lockheed Martin will deliver five more F-35As to the RNLAF this year, bringing the total to eight. The additional aircraft, along with F-003, will initially be delivered to the 308th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Arizona, for training.
The first two RNLAF F-35As are expected to arrive at Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands at the end of the year. Both of these will be built at the Italian Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) facility at Cameri near Turin. Dave Allport
Photo credit: RNLAF