The Dutch Open the Door to Buying Additional F-35s: A Key Building Block in Shaping Their Defense Strategy


With the Dutch government focused on enhanced defense capabilities, a core building block in the way ahead clearly has been the purchase and involvement of the Dutch in the F-35 program.

The Netherlands was one of the original nine partner nations for the F-35 as well as the second international partner to receive the F-35.

The Netherlands are working with the Italians to assemble most of their F-35s at the Cameri facility.

An article by Defense News’s Tom Kington published on June 15, 2018, highlighted this aspect of the program.

Assembly is underway in Italy on a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter destined for the Netherlands Air Force, Dutch and Italian officials have said.

The Netherlands is planning to assemble most of its F-35s at the line at Cameri in northern Italy, where Italian Air Force and Navy F-35s are already being assembled.

Dutch secretary of state for defense, Barbara Visser, attended a ceremony at Cameri on Thursday to mark the start of the work on Dutch aircraft.

“She was there as the aircraft, ‘AN9,’ went to the mating station as assembly got under way,” said Dutch Air Force spokesman, Sidney Plankman.

The aircraft is the ninth of the Netherlands’ order of 37 F-35As. The first eight are being assembled at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility in the U.S.

Dutch F-35 at Edwards AFB. Credit Photo: USAF

The first Dutch F-35 assembled in the U.S. will roll off the Fort Worth line in January 2019 and will head to Luke Air Base for pilot training, said Plankman. “Six or seven of those assembled in the U.S. will go to Luke,” he added.

A follow on story on Defense News by Sebastian Sprenger highlighted the evolving approach of the Dutch government with regard to purchasing additional F-35s as well.

Dutch defense minister Ank Bijleveld has eliminated the country’s budget cap for F-35 purchases, opening the possibility of buying more planes in the future, a spokesman confirmed to Defense News.

The defense ministry spokesman described the move as “just a formality” that would not require parliamentary approval, as the Dutch objective of buying 37 copies of the Lockheed Martin-made jet for €4.7 billion remains in place. But it means “we leave the option open to buy new planes” beyond those already envisioned in the budget, the spokesman said.

And this month, the Dutch government has indicated that it is increasing defense spending which will include purchasing additional F-35s. 

Ministers have pledged to set aside more money for the defence ministry in line with Nato agreements and that means buying more JSF fighter jets and tanks, the AD said on Friday afternoon.

The detailed plan to boost spending on the armed forces will be unveiled when government publishes its spring statement next year, the defence ministry said in a statement. Nato has said all its member states should come up with a ‘believable plan’ outlining how they will meet the agreed threshhold of spending 2% of GDP on defence by 2024.

Most European countries are far below the threshold – the Netherlands, for example, spends just 1.35% of GDP on defence, the AD said.

Defence minister Ank Bijleveld said in an official statement that the plan shows that the cabinet takes the current threats seriously. ‘The cabinet is committed to invest in defence,’ she said.

‘The Netherlands must take steps to remain a trustworthy ally.’ The minister told the AD that it is still unclear how much extra money will be allocated to defence.

323 TES Special Tail Aircraft. Credit: The Aviationist

Nor would she comment on how many extra JSFs – or F-35s as they are officially called – would be bought.

‘We will soon have two squadrons and Nato is asking for a third. That is 15 planes,’ she said.

The Netherlands is currently committed to buying 37 of the fighter jets.. Broadcaster NOS said the government has five priorities to boost the armed forces.

As well as buying more JSFs and tanks, ministers want to strengthen the elite special forces units, and boost cyber and information technology capacity. provided this comment on the Dutch and the F-35 as well as including a Dutch video.

The Dutch Parliament approved an order for a lot of eight Lockheed Martin F-35As in March of last year, confirming the aircraft as the official replacement for the F-16AMs currently in use by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF). 

These aircraft are currently scheduled for delivery in 2019.

The Dutch are scheduled to procure a total of 37 F-35As, the first two of which are currently flying at Edwards Air Force Base in California with 323 Squadron.

That unit’s mission is Operational Test and Evaluation, being done alongside their American counterparts at the 31st TES.

Four RNLAF pilots, to include “Smiley” and “Pascal,” have completed their F-35 transition. Even though none of us at FighterSweep speak Dutch, we can surmise the focus of the presentation has to do with both the capacity and requirement of fighter pilots to sometimes make split-second decisions–and it doesn’t matter if you’re flying a Viper or TTL, or what language you speak.

So if you can filter out not understanding what they’re saying, you ought to enjoy this presentation.

And using the same approach of FighterSweep, we include a more recent Dutch F-35 video, which was published by the Dutch Ministry of Defence on November 26, 2018.

The video provides a look behind the scenes at the test squadron at Edwards AFB I which the Dutch participate. The focus is on the ground team that ensures the F-35 flies and does so safely.

The Aviationist provided photos and comments on the Dutch F-35s with special tail markings at 323 Test and Evaluation Squadron.

The 323 TES (Test and Evaluation Squadron) “Diana” celebrates its 70th anniversary with F-35 F-002 in special tail markings at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

“Three two three”, Royal Netherlands Air Force’s first F-35 squadron, operates two Lightning II aircraft, examples AN-1 (F-001) and AN-2 (F-002), at Edwards AFB, California. The Squadron, is responsible for the Operational Test and Evaluation Phase (OT&E) as part of the Joint Operational Test Team, which lays the foundation for the RNLAF’s commissioning of the F-35.

On Nov. 15, 2018, the squadron, that was established in 1948 and has changed designation (including Fighter Weapons School, Tactical Training, Evaluation and Standardization Squadron, etc.) several times through the years, celebrated its 70th anniversary, an achievement commemorated by applying special markings to the tail of one of the two Dutch F-35s: aircraft F-002 was given a Diana “Godness of the Hunt” (symbol of the squadron) artwork along with the silhouettes of all the aircraft that the unit has flown in the last seven decades and the text “70 years”.

The artwork was created by artist Christy TortlandIt looks like the markings are applied on panels attached to the rudder and fin; however, according to the artist, this was just for the photo shoot as the aircraft should be painted later.

The Dutch are contributing in other ways as well.

For example, the Deputy Director of the EAG, Air Commodore Robert Adang of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, is helping shape the way ahead with airpower teaming in which the F-35s are the tip of the spear for a coordinated air combat force.

For our interview earlier this year with Air Commodore Adang, see the following:

Europe Prepares for Fifth Generation Transformation: The European Air Group Works the Challenge

And we close with this video by Dafydd Phillips published on December 14, 2017, he caputres Dutch F-35s at Edwards AFB.