The Netherlands Ministry of Defence (MoD) has placed an order for initial batch of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft.

A total of eight F-35 fighters will be supplied by Lockheed Martin to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) by 2019.

The RNLAF intends to acquire at least 37 new F-35 fighters for replacement of RNLAF’s ageing fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

Dutch Defence Minister Janine Hennis-Plasschaert said: "It is good that after 12 years of political debate there is now clarity about the successor to the F-16.

"The F-35 is the most modern fighter aircraft that can be used for various tasks. Several comparisons have shown that the aircraft complies with Dutch requirements.

"It is good that after 12 years of political debate there is now clarity about the successor to the F-16."

"The air force has finally gotten clarity. For the entire armed forces this unit is important.

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"Air support is indispensable, and the good sensors of the device will improve the information position of troops on the ground strong."

The country already invested $800m in the F-35 development phase, which commenced in 2001, ensuring close involvement of the local companies in industrial development.

In 2008, the Netherlands joined the operational test phase of the F-35 aircraft, like the US and the UK, and the understanding generated by the phase will play a key role in introduction of the F-35 in RNLAF.

The country has already acquired two F-35 test aircraft that are anticipated to start operations after the completion of the test phase in 2018.

Around 20 technicians, four pilots and ten support personnel have been trained to work with the fifth-generation F-35 aircraft, which is signed to conduct an array of ground attack, reconnaissance and air defence missions with stealth capability.

The aircraft is being developed in three variants, including a conventional take-off and landing aircraft for the US and allied air forces, a short take-off and landing fighter for the US Marine Corps and the Royal Navy, and a carrier version for the US Navy.

Image: The Royal Netherlands Air Force’s first two F-35s arriving at Edwards Air Force Base in California, US. Photo: courtesy of the Netherlands Ministry of Defence.