On the very last days of 2021, the Royal Netherlands Air Force declared an initial operational capability for the F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter jet.
Initial Operational Capability: A Major Milestone
The initial operational capability means that the Royal Netherlands Air Force can deploy a flight of four F-35As with the necessary equipment and support personnel anywhere in the world for a short period of time.
This is a major milestone for the NATO member because now it can support alliance missions in Europe and elsewhere.
“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 almost continuous deployment of F-16s over the past 30 years, more is only possible with this ‘next level’ fighter aircraft, Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt, the Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, said in a press release.
With this milestone, the Royal Netherlands Air Force enters a very small group. Few other countries have achieved an initial operational capability for their F-35 fleets. Australia, Italy, Israel, Norway, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States are some of the countries that can deploy an F-35 flight anywhere in the world.
“The declaration of IOC ushers in a new era of air power that gives the RNLAF transformational capabilities. I am proud of the Lockheed Martin team’s commitment to delivering the most effective, survivable and connected fighter to our partners in the Netherlands,” F-35 Program Vice President and General Manager Bridget Lauderdale stated.
A fifth-generation stealth multi-role aircraft, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter can conduct six mission sets: Close Air Support, Air Superiority, Electronic Warfare, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Strategic Attack, and Suppression Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) and Destruction Enemy Air Defense (DEAD).
The Dutch military has received 24 F-35As and plans to purchase an additional 24. Thus far, the 55 Dutch pilots qualified on the F-35 have racked up more than 9,000 flight hours on the F-35
F-35: A Global Aircraft
Fifteen countries are flying or will be flying the F-35 stealth fighter jet (the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Japan, Israel, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Singapore, Belgium, South Korea, Netherlands, Finland, and Switzerland).
Today, there are more than 730 F-35s flying from almost 30 bases worldwide; More than 1,500 pilot and 11,500 support personnel have been trained and qualified on the platform, while the aircraft has logged close to 500,000 flight hours. But the U.S. military is by far the largest operator and customer of the stealth aircraft with an intended order of approximately 2,500 F-35s of all types.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.