Dutch and American officials on Jan. 30 celebrated the roll out of the first operational F-35A Lightning II for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) at Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) in Fort Worth.
“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 tremendous impact on the relevance of our Air Force as part of the coalition,” said Lt. Gen. Dennis Luyt, Commander, RNLAF. “We want to be among the best air forces of the world, and the platform of F-35 allows us to do that.”
Various government, military and industry guests joined Luyt in attendance at the ceremony including Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO Marillyn Hewson; State Secretary, the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs Mona Keijzer; and Special Envoy F-35, the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs Maxime Verhagen.
“From the very beginning of the F-35 program, the Netherlands has been a key partner in developing, testing, improving, and maintaining this remarkable aircraft,” said Hewson. “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.”
Following the ceremony, the aircraft is scheduled to ferry to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where F-35A pilot training takes place. The aircraft is the first operational F-35 and the third Netherlands jet delivered to date. The first two Dutch F-35s were delivered in 2013 and are at Edwards AFB, California, supporting operational testing. The RNLAF plans to acquire 37 F-35As.
Dutch industry, including 25 suppliers to date, have benefitted from the F-35 program with contracts awarded for high technology work. As estimated by the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, the F-35 program has already generated more than $1 billion USD in contracts for Netherlands industry, creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs for the Netherlands over the life of the program.
To date, more than 360 F-35s have been delivered and are now operating from 16 bases worldwide. Ten nations are flying the F-35, seven countries have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil, five services have declared Initial Operating Capability, and two services have announced their F-35s have been used in combat operations.