The Netherlands Ministry of Defence declared Initial Operational Capability for its four F-35A fighters this week, paving the way for their limited deployment.
The aircraft achieved the status after a series of steps and exercises “at home and abroad” during their Initial Operational Test & Evaluation, the ministry revealed.
Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt reacted to the achievement: “With this, we are taking another important step in our transition to a future-proof air force. I expect that on our path to Full Operational Capability we will enter a period of heavy deployment of this wonderful new weapon system.”
“Just as we have seen the almost continuous deployment of F-16s over the past 30 years, more is only possible with this ‘next level’ fighter aircraft.”
The Netherlands is replacing its F-16 fighters with the F-35, having received the first of 46 in 2019. The remaining aircraft are scheduled to join the air force before the end of 2024.
The fleet size will allow the country’s air force to achieve its objective of having four aircraft available for NATO deployment “while also performing homeland defense operations and accounting for training requirements and maintenance downtime.”
The announcement comes amid a handful of European nations declaring their decision to purchase the Lockheed Martin aircraft.
Most recently, Finland ordered 64 F-35As to replace its aging fleet of Boeing Hornets earlier this month. Earlier, the Swiss government chose the aircraft over the Airbus Eurofighter, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, and French firm Dassault’s Rafale in a deal potentially worth $5.5 billion.