The Netherlands

The Royal Netherlands Air Force
Logo By Royal Decreet, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNlAF) was installed on the 1st of July 1913. It started with a single leased 'Brik', an updated Farman  biplane, one commander and three pilots. They operated from Soesterberg which is still one of the active airbases of the RNlAF. More aircraft arrived and the RNlAF made its start as a professional air force. During the First World War, the Netherlands remained neutral politically and was unable to obtain a large amount of aircraft. However, as lots of foreign planes made an emergency landing on Dutch soil, these aircraft were confiscated and bought. Consequently, at the end of the First World War, the RNlAF had obtained 71 planes, all different types by different manufacturers. With more active aircraft, there was also a need for more airfields. New airbases were build at Gilze-Rijen, Venlo, Vlissingen and at Schiphol.

In the Interbellum, the RNlAF was equipped with aircraft locally built by Dutch manufacturers like Spyker, Koolhoven and Fokker. From 1921 and on, the red-white-blue roundel was introduced, replacing the orange roundel.

At the start of the Second World War, the RNlAF has a total of 125 combat ready aircraft, including 20 Fokker D-XXI's fighters, 26 Fokker G-Is twin boom fighters, 12 Fokker T-V bombers and 12 Douglas-Northrop 8A-3N bombers, all stationed at airfields in the western part of the Netherlands. During the 10 may 1940 attack by Germany, which lasted 5 days, 328 German aircraft were shot down, including 220 Ju-52 trimotor transporters, at a loss of 94 Dutch aircraft. Most of the training aircraft managed to escape to England, together with other members of the RNlAF, and with these resources a Dutch squadron operating under RAF command is formed : 322 squadron, equipped with different types of Spitfires.

After the war, it was an enormous task to rebuilt the RNlAF with training and transport as main priority. June 27th 1948 was an important day as on this day the first jet aircraft arrived. With the introduction of the Gloster Meteor, the RNlAF was ready for its air defence task. Under the umbrella of the NATO, founded in 1949, the RNlAF was organised into a solid force, part of the 2 ATAF tactical force, with more squadrons operating more and modern jet aircraft. Under the American Mutual Defence Assistance Program, 62 NA F-86K Sabre jetfighters are obtained, next to Republic F-84 Thunderjet bomber and RF-84 Thunderflash reconnaissance aircraft. For training, the RNlAF used the Fokker S-11's and Harvards for ab-initio and the Fokker S-14 Machtrainer and Lockheed T-33A for the next stage. For liaison, some Beavers and Super Cubs are acquired. The C-47 Dakota was used for transport tasks, later replaced by locally built Fokker F27 Friendship/Troopship aircraft. The next generation of aircraft was introduced in the sixties with the introduction of the (T/R)F-104G Starfighter jetfighters, also partly built by Fokker. In the seventies, the NF-5A/B fighter bombers was introduced as a replacement for the Thunderjets. Also in this period, all liaison airplanes were replaced by helicopters: the Alouette III and the Bo-105C. The next stage was the replacement of the Starfighter by the GD F-16A/B Fighting Falcons, built by Fokker with the first F-16 delivered in 1979. A total of 213 aircraft were acquired, also to replace the NF-5A/B.

Nowadays, the RNlAF, can be considered one of Europe's most rejuvenated and modern air arms. With the fall of the Warsaw pact and the changed world order, new doctrines were needed necessitating different aircraft like long-range transport aircraft and tankers. Therefore, Lockheed C-130H Hercules transporters and KDC-10 tankers were acquired. Due to the new 'Global Air Power' policy, also the helicopter force was amended and modernised. More emphasis on the Air Mobile brigade in the Quick Reaction Force required more and larger helicopters, but also a wing of armed assault helicopters. For that reason, the Alouette 3 and Bo105, which both have been used for observation and liaison tasks for many years, have been replaced by 17 AS532U2 Cougar Mk.IIs and 13 CH-47D Chinooks for transport duties, and by 30 AH-64D Apaches in the attack role. Four Alouette 3's are still in use, mostly for Royal Duties.

The Netherlands have been very active in humanitarian/peace keeping operations, performed under the supervision of the UN or NATO.
1998 - 1999 Extraction Force 3x CH-47D at Kosovo ( FYROM )
1999 - 2000 Allied Force 20x F-16/1x KDC-10 at Amendola (Italy )
1999              Allied Harbour 3x CH-47D at Tirana ( Albania )
1999              Albanian Force 3x CH-47D at Tirana ( Albania )
1999 - 2000 KFOR all types at Italy / Kosovo
2001 - 2004 SFOR 2(5)x AS532U2 at Bugojno ( Bosnia )
2002 - 2004 Enduring Force 4(6)x F-16/1x KDC-10 at Manas ( Kirgizia )
2002 - 2002 Enduring Force 1x C-130H at Manas ( Kirgizia )
2004 - 2005 SFIR 6(3)x AH64D at Tallil ( Iraq )
2004              SFIR 3(1)x CH47D at Tallil ( Iraq )
2004 - 2005 SFIR 4(3)x AS532U2 at Tallil ( Iraq )
2004 - 2006 ISAF 6x AH-64D at Kabul ( Afghanistan )
2005 - 2006 ISAF 4x F-16 at Kabul ( Afghanistan )
2005 - 2006 Enduring Freedom 3(4)x CH-47D at Kandahar ( Afghanistan )
2006 - 2010 ISAF 4(6)x AH-64D at Tarin Kowt ( Afghanistan, Task Force Uruzgan )
2006 - 2011 ISAF 4(8)x F-16AM at Kandahar ( Afghanistan, Task Force Uruzgan )
2006 - 2007 ISAF 3(5)x AS532U2 at Tarin Kowt ( Afghanistan, Task Force Uruzgan )
2007 - 2008 ISAF 3x CH-47D at Tarin Kowt ( Afghanistan, Task Force Uruzgan )
2006 - 2008 ISAF 1x C-130H at Kandahar ( Afghanistan, Task Force Uruzgan )
2008 - 2010 ISAF 3x AS532U2 at Tarin Kowt ( Afghanistan, Task Force Uruzgan )
2010 - now   EU ( 2x AS532U2/ 1x NH90 at various vessels ( Gulf of Eden, Operation Atalanta/Ocean Shield )
2009 - 2011 ISAF 1x C-130H at 'Mirage' AB ( UAE, 1 NLD Forward Support Element Mirage )
2011              NATO 6x F-16AM at Decimonannu ( Italy, Coalition of the Willing, support No-Fly zone Libya )
2011 - 2014 ISAF 4x F-16AM at Mazar-e-Sharif ( Afghanistan, 1(NL) Air Task Force)
2014 - now MINUSMA 4x AH-64DN/3x CH-47D at Goa ( Mali, 298sq/301sq )
2014 - 2016 NATO 6x F-16AM at Al Azraq ( Jordan, 1(NL) Air Task Force Middle East )

From 2006, the RNlAF has changed into an operational command, known as the Commando Luchtstrijdkrachten ( Air Force Command ), tasked with providing the operational assets and is responsible for the training of the defence staff and keeping them operational. Therefore, all assets, including all airplanes and helicopters, are no longer property of the RNlAF but are transferred to the Defensie Material Organisatie ( Defence Assets Organization ). With the new organization, also plans for further cost saving measures are announced. The once mighty fleet of F-16s has further been reduced to 108 airplanes. The surplus of modernised F-16's has been sold to Chile (Peace Amstel I, 11 F-16AMs and 7 F-16BMs) and Jordan (Peace Falcon IV, eleven F-16BMs). The F-16s has been updated with Mid-Life Update program 4. With the M4 update the Fighting Falcons will be comparable with the block 50 F-16s and capable of flying with NVG goggles, being armed with laser guided or JDAM bombs and aiming with the Helmet Mounted Sight, while updating the radar picture with the Link16 data link. Furthermore, 6 Reccelite reconnaissance systems, including ground stations, have been acquired to replace the obsolete MARS/Orpheus pods, next to twenty Litening ATFLIR targeting pods. All F-16s operate in 4 squadrons from two Main Operating Bases; Leeuwarden and Volkel. From 1 December 2010, 306 squadron, the dedicated F-16 training squadron, formerly based at Springfield ANGB, OH , has been disbanded and the IQT ( Initial Qualification Training ) will be provided by 148th FS/162nd FW/Arizona ANG at Tuscon ANGB where five F-16BMs and five F-16AMs are based now. In 2010 another eighteen F-16AM were sold to Chile as part of Peace Amstel II with deliveries to the FaCh completed in 2011. From 2011/2012 the F-16 fleet has been reduced to 68, the fleet has been upgraded to MLU 5 including improved navigation systems, enhanced weapon handling capabilities.

The AH-64D Apache combat helicopters operate within the 301 squadron and operate 21 aircraft from Gilze-Rijen while 8 of them are permanently stationed at Fort Hood, Texas for training new crews. Gilze-Rijen, is transformed as the main operating base for the helicopter force, as Soesterberg was closed in 2009 and all squadrons transferred to Gilze-Rijen. The helicopter fleet will be increased and modernised with the procurement of six CH-47F Chinook helicopters, replacing two crashed models, while there are plans to update the remaining CH-47Ds to this standard. In 2010 the first of the 20 NH-90 helicopters has arrived. The order consisted of two versions: 12 NATO Frigate Helicopters ( NH90 NFH ) and 8 Tactical Transport Helicopters ( NH90 TTH). Unfortunately these plans were to expensive so the order has been changed to 20 NFH helicopters. The last eight NFHs however will be modified to a TNFH version, Tactical NATO Frigate Helicopters. This version got skipped as well leaving only transportation kits available as option to carry larger groups. All helicopter squadrons are commanded by the Defensie Helikopter Commando ( Defence Helicopter Command, DHC ), part of the RNLAF. From Q3 2012 298sq received two CH-47Fs, after being modified at LCW Woensdrecht and in 2013 a third one will complete the initial delivery. In the same timeline two CH-47Fs where flown to Fort Hood, TX to join the JNTD with the third arriving in January 2013. The intended upgrade of the current CH-47D fleet has been placed on hold as the plans of purchasing new F-models favours our MoD. In November 2013 the Training Detachment reached their fully readiness status and where reformed into the 302sq. On 15 December 2015 the final flights of 300sq with the SA316B will take place, ending the era of the Alouette after 51 years.   

All transport aircraft are based at Eindhoven, divided in two squadrons, 334 and 336sq. The Fokker 60s are sold to Peru, both Fokker 50s are up for sale, while stored at Lelystad and the DC-10-30 has entered active service in 2012 however is expected to be withdrawn again in 2013 depending the sale progress. In 2013 the CUP, Cockpit Upgrade Program of both KDC-10s will be completed so these will be operational with a full glass cockpit. Next to these DC-10s 334sq also houses the Gulfstream 4, V-11 used for VIP transport. Two former US Navy EC-130Q Hercules transporters where bought in 2006 and where converted to C-130H by Marshall Aerospace and joined 336sq in 2010, next to the remaining two C-130H-30s. After a number of budget cuts in the anual review Eindhoven had to give up their sole DC-10 in 2013 as she was declared absolent. On 11 April 2014 T-255 was flown to Newquay, Engeland for part-out and scrap, completing this task in July 2014. The Gulfstream 4 has joined the sales departement in April 2014 leaving the KDC-10s and C-130H fleet as local residents.  

As part of the F-16 replacement, the Ministry of Defence selected the Lockheed Martin F-35A as best suitable next generation fighter. To contribute as level 2 partner in the F-35 Program and supply in the Operation Test and Evaluation (OT&E) part of the airplane development, two F-35As where bought with the first being handed over at 25 July 2013, followed by the second at 12 September 2013. At first they will operate out of Eglin AFB (FL) and late 2014 move to Edwards AFB (CA) where 323sq will continue operating both F-35s untill we receive our first of 37 F-35As around 2018/2019 at Leeuwarden. Next to manned upgrades the RNLAF also improved on their unmanned operations with a desire to operate 4 MQ-9 Reapers to gain extra and better intelligence over mission areas. After their training in the USA, the first Dutch Reapers are expected between 2022-2024 (delayed in 2015 over funding) and will be housed in a resurrected 306sq that will take over the gap at Leeuwarden after 323sq leaves. 

The Royal Netherlands Navy

The Royal Netherlands Navy  The Marine Luchtvaartdienst ( MLD ) of the Royal Netherlands Navy ( RNLN ) had its start on 18th of August, 1917. It started with the same aircraft as the air force like the Spyker, Fokker and Koolhoven. But it was only ten years later when airplanes especially designed for naval services were bought, like the Dornier Wal flying boats and the Fokker T-VIII seaplanes. They operated from airbases like De Kooy, very close to the harbour of Den Helder, or from the De Mok at Texel, especially made for seaplanes. During the Second World War, the spririt of the MLD was placed in squadrons under the Command of the Royal Navy, being the famous 320 squadron and the still active 860 squadron. After the war, the MLD was developed to a large force, with its peak period in the sixties with more than 100 airplanes  divided under 11 squadrons. Especially the aircraft carrier Hr Ms Karel Doorman had an enormous impact in the development of this naval service with airplanes for air defence tasks, like the Hawker Seahawk, or for anti submarine tasks, like the Grumman Avenger and the Grumman Tracker. Helicopters were introduced in 1950, first for rescue services with the Sikorsky S-51, S-55 and Agusta-Bell UH-1, later also for anti-submarine tasks, first with the Sikorsky S-58, later with the Westland Wasp. With the decommissioning of the aircraft carrier, the MLD was diminished to four squadrons, two with long-range anti-submarine aircraft like the Lockheed Neptune, Breguet Atlantic and the Lockheed Orion, being 320sq and 321sq, while two were operating with the Westland Lynx, being 7sq and 860sq. During budget cuts, the nine Atlantic aircraft were retired in 1984 while the 13 Orions were retired without replacement in 2004.At this moment, both squadrons, 7 squadron and 860 squadron, are commanded by the Defensie Helikopter Commando ( Defence Helicopter Command, DHC ), part of the RNlAF. All  upgraded SH-14D Lynx helicopter at the Maritime Air Station De Kooy are assigned to 860 squadron, for SAR duties and for detachments on board of naval frigates. The other squadron, 7 squadron, has no helicopters and is the training group only. The Lynx helicopters has been retired by September 2012 to be replaced by 20 NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopters. The NH90 will eventually operate in the SAR role, replacing the AB412SPs of 303 squadron, but a  lease of civilian operated NHV AS365N2 SAR helicopters will be needed in the mean time. From January 2013 the first NH90 joined a operational deployment to check on her performances needed for full combat readiness.

Send Updates

Do you have updates? Or is something not listed correctly? Please let us know!
You can help us and other spotters with your information.

Subscribe to Scramble

As a member you get access to all our
premium content and benefits learn more


Follow us and keep in touch