Last month, the Royal Netherlands Air Force announced that it would deploy eight Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters to Poland.
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Four of those fighters will be employed to observe NATO’s eastern airspace.
At the same time, an additional four will be used in allied training programs to increase the international alliance’s presence on the eastern flank and to promote cooperation between its members.
“With eight fighter jets, the Netherlands contributes to the defense of NATO’s eastern flank,” the Dutch Ministry of Defense announced via a statement.
F-35 Right on Russia’s Doorstep
The aircraft arrived in Poland last week and will take over NATO air policing flights in the Baltic Sea region. In addition to the fighters and pilots, approximately 150 personnel from the Royal Netherlands Air Force also have been deployed to the Polish 22nd Tactical Air Base in Malbork, located approximately 60 km (37 miles) southeast of Gdansk – home for all of the Polish Air Force’s MiG-29 Fulcrums.
According to a report from TheAviationist, the Dutch military deployed its eight F-35 aircraft to Malbork with special tent hangars – erected jointly by 34 Dutch engineers supported by Polish personnel.
Ready and Operational
A formation of six F-35s conducted their first training mission from the base last week, under the control of the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany, in collaboration with the Polish Air Force.
“It is a great experience to deploy our advance fifth-generation jets here to Malbork,” said Lieutenant Colonel Guido Schols, Commander of the Netherlands F-35 detachment.
“By sending eight F-35s, the Netherlands underline their commitment to collective security in the region and contribute to showing NATO presence in the air,” Schols added. “Four of our jets are earmarked for the Air Policing mission and the other four will be available for training with our Allies. They can also be used immediately if the situation so requires.”
This is the second time this year that the Netherlands has deployed military personnel to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO territory. In addition, the 22nd Tactical Air Base has increasingly been used to host NATO partners and in the past year, it has also seen Portuguese, Italian, and Turkish jets stationed there to help with the scope of the Baltic Air Policing (BAP) missions.
F-35 Guarding NATO’s Flank
It was last March, following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, that U.S. Air Force F-35s were also deployed to the region. A dozen F-35As from the 34th Fighter Squadron, out of Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Utah, arrived at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany on Feb. 16, 2022, as Russian forces were continuing their build-up along the borders of Ukraine.
Those aircraft then operated out of Romania’s 86th Air Base, which is less than 100 miles from the Ukrainian border. Additional U.S. F-35s were deployed to Estonia and Lithuania.
It is likely U.S. fighters will be rotated back to the region this spring.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.