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Royal Netherlands Air Force
Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu)
Netherlands roundel.svg
Roundel of the Royal Netherlands Air Force
Founded March 1953
Country The Netherlands
Allegiance The Netherlands / NATO
Branch Air force
Size 181
Part of Dutch Armed Forces

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), Dutch Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu), is the military aviation branch of the Netherlands Armed Forces. Its ancestor, the Luchtvaartafdeeling (aviation department) of the Dutch Army was founded on 1 July 1913, with just four pilots. The aerobatic display team of the Royal Netherlands Air Force is the Solo Display Team.

Contents

History

The beginning in 1913

Farman

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is the second youngest operational part of the Dutch Armed Forces, which consists of four parts: Navy, Army, Air Force and Military Police.

Dutch air power started in July 1913 with the founding of the Army Aviation Group (Luchtvaartafdeeling or abbreviated LVA) at Soesterberg airfield (vliegbasis Soesterberg). When founded, the Army Aviation Group operated just one aircraft, the Brik, which was supplemented with three French Farman aircraft a few months later.

These aircraft were soon outdated and the Dutch government ordered several fighter/reconnaissance Nieuport and Caudron aircraft to replace them.

1914-1918 WWI

The Netherlands maintained a neutral position during World War I and the Army Aviation Group did not take part in any action, instead developing the force's capabilities.

Pilot training was opened for ranks below officer, and technical, aerial photography, meteorological and navigation flights were established.

A number of new airfields were established at Arnhem, Gilze-Rijen air base, Venlo and Vlissingen.

Between the wars

After the end of World War I the Dutch government cut the defence budget and the carefully built up Army Aviation Group was almost dissolved. As political tensions in Europe increased during the late 1930s the government tried to rebuild the armed forces again in 1938 but there were many problems, not least the shortage of pilot instructors, navigators and pilots to fly the new multiple engine aircraft. Lack of standardisation and resulting maintenance issues added to the complexity of the rebuilding task.

World War II and late 1940s

Fokker G.I Jachtkruiser

As war loomed, in July 1939 the Army Aviation Group was renamed the Army Aviation Brigade (Luchtvaartbrigade).

In August 1939, the Netherlands government mobilised its armed forces, but due to limited budgets the Army Aviation Brigade operated only 136 combat-ready aircraft of several types.

  • 55 reconnaissance (various types) aircraft
Fokker D.XXI at the Air Force Museum in Soesterberg.

In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Within five days the Dutch Army Aviation Brigade was virtually wiped out by the German Luftwaffe. All of the Brigade's bombers, along with 30 D.XXI and 17 G.I fighters were shot down; two D.XXI and eight G.I were destroyed on the ground. Two G.I were captured by German forces, one of which was later flown to England by a Fokker pilot. The Douglas bombers were used as fighters because no suitable bombs were available, yet these aircraft were not suited for this role and 8 were shot down and 3 destroyed on the ground in the first hours of the conflict.

In spite of their numerical inferiority, the Dutch armed forces did enjoy success against the Luftwaffe, with more than 350 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed . While many were lost to anti-aircraft fire and crashes at improvised landing fields in the Netherlands, the Aviation Brigade did enjoy successes. The cost was high - almost 95% of the Dutch pilots lost. In recognition of their actions Queen Wilhelmina granted the highest Dutch military decoration, the Militaire Willemsorde (MWO), to the Army Aviation Brigade collectively.

Some aircrews escaped to England and on June 1, 1940, 320 Squadron and 321 Squadron were established there under RAF operational command. Due to a shortage of personnel, 321 Squadron was absorbed by 320 Sqn in January 1941. Although their personnel were predominantly from the Navy Air Service, Army Aviation aircrew also served with 320 Sqn until the end of the war.

In 1941, the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School was re-established, in the United States at Jackson Field (also known as Hawkins Field), Jackson, Mississippi, operating lend-lease aircraft and training all military aircrew for the Netherlands.

The separate Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger (ML-KNIL; Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Military Air Service) continued in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), until its occupation by Japan in 1942. Some personnel escaped to Australia and Ceylon. 321 Squadron was re-formed in Ceylon, in March 1942, from Dutch aviators.

In 1942, 18 (NEI) Squadron, a joint Dutch-Australian unit was established, in in Canberra, equipped with B-25 Mitchell bombers. It saw action in the New Guinea campaign and over the Dutch East Indies. In 1943, 120 (NEI) Squadron was established. Equipped with Kittyhawk fighters, it flew many missions under Australian command, including the recapturing of Dutch New Guinea.

P-40D Kittyhawk

In June 1943, a Dutch fighter squadron was established in England. 322 (Dutch) Squadron, equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire, saw action as part of the RAF. 322 Sqn aircraft featured the British RAF roundels as well as the Dutch orange triangle. 322 Sqn was successfully deployed against incoming V-1 flying bombs. From mid-1944, during the invasion of Normandy, it executed ground attack missions over France and Belgium.

In July 1944, the Directorate of Netherlands Airpower was established in London.

In 1947, its Chief of Air Force Staff as been appointed.

The Netherlands East Indies ceased to exist in December 1949, when the Dutch government surrendered its territory (except for Dutch New Guinea) to the Republic of Indonesia.

The 1950s and 1960s

In 1951, for the first time in history, several non-combat functions in the Army Aviation were opened to women.

In March 1953 the Royal Netherlands Air Force officially became an autonomous part of the Dutch armed forces.

The Air Defense Command, (Commando Lucht Verdediging, abbreviated CLV) consisting of a command unit, five radar stations and six fighter squadrons, had been established. Its radar equipment as well as its air defense fighters all came from obsolete RAF stocks.

Initially the Spitfire Mk.IX was used by 322 sqn until 1954, but were replaced as new squadrons were established.

After the Netherlands joined NATO another new command: Tactical Air Command (Commando Tactische Luchtstrijdkrachten, abbreviated CTL) was established.

  • CTL consisted of seven new strike squadrons (306, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315 and 316 sqn), all equipped with Republic F-84G Thunderjet aircraft. These aircraft were supplied by the United States under Mutual Defense Aid Program conditions from 1952-1956.
  • 700, 701 and 702 Sqn operated the F86 Sabre all-weather fighter between 1956-1964.
  • 306, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315 and 316 sqn changed aircraft configuration from 1955-1970 as the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak and RF-84F Thunderflash became available.
F-84F Thunderstreak
F-84G Thunderjet

New Guinea conflict

The Indonesian government claimed New Guinea following the end of the second world war. The Dutch government considered the area Dutch territory. Negotiations over the country were conducted for years, but tensions grew until Indonesia broke diplomatic relations with the Netherlands at the end of the 1950s.

In response, in 1958, the Netherlands deployed military reinforcements to New Guinea, including an Air Force detachment for the air defense of the island Biak as there was evidence that Indonesia was infiltrating the island in advance of a military operation.

The first Air Force contribution was the installation of two MkIV early warning radars on Biak and neighbouring Woendi island.

The political situation between the Netherlands and Indonesia continued to deteriorate and in 1960 the Dutch government decided to deploy reinforcements. The operations were known by name as ’Plan Fidelio’. For the Dutch Air Force this meant the establishment of an Air Defense Command for New Guinea (Commando Luchtverdediging Nederlands Nieuw-Guinea - CLV NNG) consisting of :

  • One Hawker Hunter Mk.4 air defence squadron;
  • A radar navigation system at Biak'", and;
  • A reserve airstrip at Noemfoer.

The Dutch government decided deployment of a squadron consisting of 12 Hawker Hunter Mk.4 AD fighters and two Alouette II SAR helicopters. They were transported to Southeast Asia by the aircraft carrier ‘Karel Doorman’. One year later the Dutch government deployed another 12 Hawker Hunter Mk6 AD fighters; these aircraft were capable to carry more fuel and had a larger combat radius.

In August 1962 Indonesia was ready to attack New-Guinea. Despite reinforcements the Dutch defences would be insufficient to withstand the coming attack. This, and because of international political pressure the Dutch government was forced to agree to the peaceful surrender of New Guinea. Dutch forces were withdrawn from the territory.

The establishment of 336 transport squadron is closely connected to New Guinea. Soon after activation this unit was deployed to New Guinea to take over air transport from the Dutch Navy. 336 Sqn deployed and took over three Navy Dakota’s and three US supplied aircraft. 336 Sqn operated from Mokmer airstrip and transported more than 5,400 passengers between September 1961 and September 1962.

The Cold War era, 1960s, 1970s and later

During the cold war era Dutch Air Force units played an important part in the West European defence against the opposing Warsaw Pact forces. The Dutch Air Force manned five fully operational self supporting Missile Groups in West Germany (1 and 2 MslGrp were equipped with NIKE batteries, while 3,4 and 5 MslGrp were equipped with Hawk). Dutch fighters and other weapon systems also took a full part in NATO alert, standby duties and exercises through the years.

  • 306, 311, 312, 322 and 323 Sqn changed configuration again from 1962-1983 after the dual role F-104 Starfighter was introduced.
  • 313, 314, 315 and 316 Sqn switched over to the NF-5 Freedom Fighter from 1969-1992. The NF-5 was a CF-5 fighter development. Some of the features on the NF-5 were later used by Northrop on the F-5E/F Tiger II variant.
  • From 1979 until now all remaining RNLAF squadrons (306, 311, 312, 313, 315, 322 and 323) are using NATO's standard fighter-bomber the multi role F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Former Yugoslavia

F-16AM 312Sqn RNLAF

RNLAF F-16s participated in all operations over Yugoslavia from 1993 Deny Flight, including Deliberate Force in 1995 and ending with Operation Allied Force in 1999 from two bases in Italy. Initially from Villafranca AB in the north of Italy, later moving south to Amendola AB. During the operations over FRY RNLAF F-16s flew reconnaissance (306Sqn detachments from Volkel AB were in theatre throughout the operations), enforced the Bosnian no-fly zone, dropped bombs on Udbina AB (1994), successfully dropped an unguided bomb on a moving Serb tank during the fall of Srebrenica (1995), and took part in Deliberate Force later in the summer of 1995. Between 1994 and 1997 Dutch GCI personnel, along with Canadian GCI controllers, provided many hundreds of hours of fighter control and surveillance as integrated members part of USAF/ANG Air Control Squadrons. During the Kosovo crisis a RNLAF F-16AM (mid-life update) shot down a Yugoslavian MiG-29 with an AMRAAM, but the force was more recognized for its high bombing accuracy. Allied Force was also the operational debut for the upgraded F-16AM. Besides the CAP mission, offensive bombing and photo reconnaissance missions were flown. KDC-10 tankers refuelled allied fighter over the Adriatic Sea, and C-130 Hercules transports flew daily sorties from Eindhoven AB to logistically support the operation. In total, RNLAF aircraft flew 1.194 sorties during operation Allied Force, which is about 7.5% of the total 37.000 sorties flown.

Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO in Afghanistan

In October 2002 a tri-national detachment of 18 Dutch, Danish and Norwegian F-16 ground attack aircraft and one Dutch KDC-10 tanker deployed to Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan in support of ground forces in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The RNLAF returned to Manas AB in September 2004 with five F-16 and one KDC-10 in support of the presidential elections of Afghanistan. This time the aircraft flew under the NATO ISAF flag.

In February 2006 four Dutch F-16s were joined by four Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s in a detachment known as the 1st Netherlands-Norwegian European Participating Forces Expeditionary Air Wing (1 NLD/NOR EEAW). This was a follow up of the participation with the Belgian Air Force.[1]

As part of the expanded NATO ISAF mission in southern Afghanistan in August 2006, the Royal Netherlands Air Force had six F-16 ground-attack aircraft, three CH-47D Chinook of 298 Sq stationed at Kandahar Airfield. Additionally, a detachement of five AH-64D Apache helicopters has been stationed of Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province.

On August 31, 2006 a Royal Netherlands Air Force (Michael "Sofac" Donkervoort) pilot was killed when his plane crashed during a mission to support British ground troops in Helmand province.[2]

Structure of the Royal Netherlands Air Force

Main Operating Bases (MOB's)

  • Leeuwarden Air Base
    • 322nd Squadron F-16
    • 323rd (TACTES) Squadron F-16 (TACTES = TACtical Training Evaluation Standardisation)
    • 920th Maintenance Squadron
    • 921st Logistics Sqnuadron
    • 922nd Support Squadron
  • Volkel Air Base
    • 311th Squadron F-16
    • 312th Squadron F-16
    • 313th Squadron F-16
    • 900th Maintenance Squadron
    • 901st Logistics Squadron
    • 640th Squadron
    • 601st Reserve Squadron
    • 703rd USAF Munition Support Sqn.

Air Defense Group

At the Air Defense Group de Peel in 2005 the Joint Air Defense Centre has been activated and the activation af the Joint Air Defense School will follow soon. In the future all anti aircraft units of the Dutch Air Force, Army and Navy will be integrated on and relocated to this base. JADC not only will take care of future air defense training, but also will coordinate and support all air defense related operations.

Tactical Air Operations Base

In 2009 710 and 711 Sqn will be united in one Air Operations Sqn. The status of the base will change to NATO status as an airmobile NATO Deployable Air control centre. Sensor fusion post DARS radar unit is planned to be operational on the base in the same year.

Defence Helicopter Command

AH-64 Apache of the Royal Netherlands Air Force

Designated as a military aviation site. Only fully operational when used for military helicopter exercises, otherwise staffed only by security personnel.

Air Transport Base

C-130H in 2009
  • Eindhoven Airport
    • 334th Transport Squadron (KDC-10, DC-10, Gulfstream IV, Fokker 50)
    • 336th Transport Squadron (C-130H-30, C-130H)
    • 602nd Reserve Squadron (partial)
    • 940th Maintenance Support Squadron
    • 941st Miscellaneous Support Squadron
    • NATO Movement Coordination Centre Europe

Common Support Base

  • Woensdrecht Air Base
    • Royal Netherlands Air Force Training Center (Koninklijke Militaire School Luchtmacht)
      • 130th Squadron (Initial Military Training)
      • 131st Squadron (Initial Military Flight Training) (PC-7)
      • 132nd Squadron (Training & Doctrine, Management Training)
      • 133rd Squadron (Training for Electronic and Technical specialists)
    • Air Force Meteorological Group
    • Defence Materiel Command/Air Force Logistics Center
    • 960th Squadron Maintenance & Logistics Support Squadron
    • 961st Support Squadron
    • 604st Reserve Squadron (partial)

Miscellaneous units

    • 600th Reserve Squadron (Traning & Standards, Air Liaison Officers, Specialist Reserves)

Closed/Former Air Bases

Rank structure

This link shows the actual ranks in the Royal Netherlands Navy, Army, Air Force and Marechaussee (Military Police): Military ranks of the Dutch armed forces

Strength

Aircraft Origin Type In service[1] Notes
Aérospatiale SA316B Alouette III  France Light VIP Helicopter 4 only used for aerial photography and Royal/VIP flights [2]
Agusta-Bell 412  Italy Light SAR and Utility Helicopter 3 SAR role, supporting the RNLAF training area over Vlieland and the Wadden Sea.[3]
Boeing AH-64D Apache  United States Attack Helicopter 29 (1 crashed)
Eurocopter AS 532U2 Cougar Mk2  France Medium Utility Helicopter 17 Mid-Life Update programme as of 2009
Boeing CH-47D Chinook  United States
 Canada
Heavy Lift Helicopter 11+6 Former Canadian Forces CH-147C were sold to the Dutch in 1991.[4][5] 6 CH-47Fs on order and options for 2 CH-47Fs [6 ]
Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules  United States Medium Transport Aircraft 2+2 In addition 2 former ex-US Navy EC-130Q's are being converted to C-130H for RNLAF by Marshall Aerospace. After this the other 2 C-130H-30's will be updated the same as the 2 new ones.[6 ]
Fokker 50  Netherlands Short to Medium Range Transport Aircraft 2 VIP transport, to be phased out
McDonnell Douglas KDC-10  United States Wide body transport Aircraft 2 Aerial refuelling and passenger/cargo transport
McDonnell Douglas DC-10  United States Wide body transport Aircraft 1 Former United Airlines passenger aircraft, updated in Italy and by Stork Aerospace (NL).
Gulfstream IV  United States Light Utility Aircraft 1 VIP transport
Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon  Netherlands/ United States Multirole Fighter Aircraft 87/18 to be phased out license-built by Fokker
Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer  Switzerland Light Training Aircraft 13 Painted Yellow/Red before, now Black with 2 yellow markings
Westland Lynx  United Kingdom ASW, SAR and MEDEVAC duties 21 Wearing Koninklijke Marine titles but since July 4, 2008 they belong to the RNLAF.
NH Industries NH-90  European Union NATO Frigate Helicopter 20 Deliveries will start in 2009. 12 x NFH-90 for use aboard Frigates & Destroyers and 8 x Marinesed TTH-90 for use aboard LPD's (option for 2 additional)
Dornier 228  Germany Coastal patrol duties 2 Wearing civil registrations but with military (air force and navy) crews [7]
F-16 J-229 painted in 2004 to celebrate 25 years service of the F-16 in Dutch service
F-16 MLU of RNLAF's Solo Display Team at Radom Air Show 2005

The future

  • 85-100 F35A Lightning II will replace their current F-16 fleet, decision will be made around 2010
  • NASAMS SHORAD Air Defence system, delivery will start in 2009.
  • 11 CH-47D Chinooks will be updated to CH-47F Chinooks in 2009.
  • 29 AH64D Apaches will be upgraded to AH64 Apache Longbow.
  • 20/22 NH90 helicopters will replace the current Navy Lynx helicopters. The NH90 helicopters will be stationed at Gilze-Rijen (8 NH-90 Naval Transport version & SAR) and De Kooy (12 NFH-90 anti-submarine warfare).
  • Purchase of air portable cruise missiles by 2011.

The Netherlands was the first country to sign up for the Production Sustainment & Follow On Development (PSFD) Phase of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.[3]

Through the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability, the RNAF has acces to three C-17s.

Replacement for the F-16

The Netherlands Air Force wants to replace its current F-16 fleet in the next decade. Originally, candidates for the replacement were the Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 52/60, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Saab Gripen and Lockheed Martin's F-35. In 2002 The Netherlands signed a MOU (Memoradum Of Understanding) to co-develop the F-35 as a 'Tier 2' Partner. That deal is worth around 800 million US dollars, advanced by the Dutch government on behalf of Dutch industries: After the unwanted demise of Fokker Aircraft, the government wanted to retain whatever aerospace industry it could.

After a first comparison, the F-35 seemed to be the best replacement for the current F-16. But Saab is now offering their latest aircraft, the Saab Gripen NG (Next Generation), to The Netherlands at a much lower price (including maintenance for its entire lifespan). The Netherlands did compare the Saab Gripen NG and the F-35 in early 2009 and the F-35 came out on top. Many sources and signs indicate that the F-35 will be the next fighter of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

In early 2008, a decision was put before Parliament to buy two test aircraft for Dutch pilots to train in the US. But instead, in April 2009 it was decided to buy just one test aircraft and defer the final decision as to what to buy to 2011, after the elections. A new government and Parliament will review the whole process again while opposition to the F-35 is growing ever stronger. Reasons for this are ever rising costs, uncertainty about exact prizes, slips in the schedule of delivery and thus uncertainty about delivery dates. Also, Dutch industries have been complaining about their offsets from the USA.[8]

See also

References

External links








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