Lockheed Martin has rolled out the first operational F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) at its facility in Fort Worth, Texas, US.
The aircraft will now be stationed at the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where F-35A pilot training will take place. It is planned to be delivered to Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands later this year.
The aircraft is the third jet delivered to the Netherlands to date. Lockheed Martin delivered the first two Dutch F-35s in 2013, which are present at Edwards AFB, California, supporting operational testing.
RNLAF commander lieutenant general Dennis Luyt said: “Receiving this F-35 at Leeuwarden Air Base later this year is going to be a huge driver for change for our Air Force and will have a tremendous impact on the relevance of our Air Force as part of the coalition.
“We want to be among the best air forces of the world, and the platform of F-35 allows us to do that.”
The RNLAF is planning to procure 37 F-35As from the company to replace its Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons.
Lockheed Martin chairman, president and CEO Marillyn Hewson said: “From the very beginning of the F-35 programme, the Netherlands has been a key partner in developing, testing, improving, and maintaining this remarkable aircraft.
“Dutch suppliers have provided high-volume production, structural-design support, and advanced technologies, and Dutch aircraft and personnel continue to support ongoing testing and operations for the worldwide F-35 fleet. As we look to the future, the Netherlands will serve as a sustainment hub in the European region for maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade projects.”
According to the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, the F-35 programme has so far generated contracts worth more than $1bn for the Dutch industry.
The Netherlands participated in the development of the F-35, along with the UK and the US and is now handling the aircraft’s production and sustainment phases.
The F-35 features stealth technology, supersonic speed, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and increased range.
Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 360 F-35s, which are now operating from 16 bases worldwide.