First F-35 squadron for the RNLAF

As of yesterday afternoon, the Royal Netherlands Air Force has its first F-35 squadron. The squadron will operate in the US. The first F-35s are planned to transfer to bases in the Netherlands from 2019 onwards. The Dutch military will buy at least 37 aircraft of this type.

Archive photo: The first Dutch F-35 pilot, Major Laurens-Jan Vijge, walking away from a Dutch F-35.

Archive photo: The first Dutch F-35 pilot, Major Laurens-Jan Vijge, walking away from a Dutch F-35.

During a ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base in the United States, the flag of 323 Squadron was handed over to the F-35 unit, symbolising the transfer of command.

The 323 Squadron flag begins its journey to the US

The 323 Squadron flag begins its journey to the US

Prior to the introduction of the F-35, 323 squadron will be responsible for the Operational Test and Evaluation Phase (OT&E), which will begin at Edwards Air Force Base in California by the end of this year. The squadron will thus lay the foundation for the RNLAF's commissioning of the F-35.

"Performing OT&Es is a familiar task for 323 Squadron", said Colonel Bert de Smit, detachment commander at Eglin Air Force Base. "323 was also responsible for the OT&Es of the F-16. Now the squadron has been given the honourable task of preparing the Defence organisation for operations with an extremely versatile fifth-generation jet fighter."