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The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation stealth fighter that has been developed to the replace 3rd and 4th generation combat aircraft such as the A-10, F-16, Harrier, Jaguar, and Hornet in NATO and allied nation service. The F-35 was developed from the X-35 which won the Joint Strike Fighter competition against the Boeing X-32. The F-35 has been produced in three different base variants, a standard land based fighter version (F-35A), a Short Take Off and Vertical Land version (F-35B), and a carrier based catapult and arrestor hook version (F-35C) all utilising a common internal configuration and software setup. The F-35 is capable of carrying weapons both on external wing pylons but also in an internal weapons bay increasing its stealth capabilities. The aircraft is also fitted with an advanced 360-degree optical system that can identify missiles or stealth aircraft approaching that would otherwise go undetected, the feed can also be sent to the pilots advanced helmet so when they look down, they see the ground and not the cockpit floor.
The Netherlands was one of the original partner nations in the F-35 program and contributed to the development costs of the aircraft. The RNLAF have ordered a total of 52 F-35As and decaled initial operational capability during December 2021. The RNLAF have since deployed their aircraft to Poland as part of the NATO enhanced air policing mission in response to the conflict in Ukraine. RNLAF F-35s were to be based at Leeuwarden and Volkel air bases however in October 2022 it was announced that De Peel Air Base would also be re-commissioned as an F-35 operating base.
The RNLAF will be sending a pair of their F-35As to appear on static display at this year's Air Tattoo. This will be the first international F-35s to appear at RIAT that have not been operated by the United States. Photo Credit: Cem Dogut