As people across the Netherlands viewed in person and on TV, the nation’s first two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs touch down for the first time at Leeuwarden Air Base May 23 – a date that will live forever in Netherlands military history.
Pilots Col. Bert “Vidal” de Smit and Maj. Pascal “Smiley” Smaal conducted a fly-by for nearly 2,000 base members, dignitaries and media before touching down. Netherlands Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert was the first person to greet the two crew members. Their arrival was broadcast live to the entire country – see the footage.
Known as AN-1 and AN-2, the jets are spending three weeks in the Netherlands for a variety of purposes. They will conduct both aerial and ground environmental noise tests, perform flights over the North Sea range and then appear and fly at the Netherlands’ Open Days, the largest air show held annually in the Netherlands.
The F-35s are performing noise tests at the request of Minister Hennis-Plasschaert. During meetings held in February 2015 with residents living in the surrounding area of the two air force bases, she promised to bring the F-35 over to the Netherlands to enable local residents to experience and compare the noise-level of the F-35 with that of the F-16 currently in use.
The Netherlands currently has four pilots and 27 maintainers, but its cadre will grow substantially during the next three years as the Netherlands prepares for a total of 37 aircraft permanently based starting with Leeuwarden in 2019 and then Volkel Air Base in 2021.
Story and photo by Lockheed Martin