King Willem Alexander pays visit to Leeuwarden AB


LEEUWARDEN AIR BASE, NETHERLANDS – King Willem Alexander from The Netherlands paid a visit to Leeuwarden Air Base on Wednesday, together with the Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt. The King’s reason for the visit was the brand new and first operational F-35A from the 322nd Squadron and the re-established future – MQ-9 Reaper – 306th Squadron.

A “game changer”; that’s how the F-35 was explained to the King. The new 5th Generation fighter jet is forming a basis for a “5th Generation Air Force”, together with the MQ-9 squadron. This is necessary, because there are still threats in Europe and in the world, and the Armed Forces must make every effort to protect freedom worldwide. That requires investment, like replacing outdated aircraft like the 40-year-old F-16.

King Willem Alexander in the cockpit of the brand new F-35A, getting extensive info about the 5th Gen jet from 2 RNLAF F-35 pilots. Photo: Ministerie van Defensie

First operational F-35
The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II is such an investment. The first operational F-35 landed at Leeuwarden AB on October 31, 2019, after the brand new jet was thoroughly tested and evaluated in Cameri (Italy), where the Italian aircraft manufacturer Leonardo is manufacturing the F-35 for Lockheed Martin. The last months, preparations have been made for the arrival at Leeuwarden AB: a new office, training buildings and hangars that are adapted for the new F-35 squadron at the airbase. The security measures are very strict, as the King could experience when he arrived at the airbase.

King Willem Alexander pays visit to Leeuwarden AB
King Willem Alexander in the first operational RNLAF F-35A, wearing a 322nd Squadron coverall, the first RNLAF F-35 Squadron. Photo: Ministerie van Defensie

F-35 Flight Simulator
After passing the security, King Willem Alexander was given the opportunity to spend some time in the F-35 simulator to test his flying skills. The King is a pilot himself and a former Fokker F70 pilot, nowadays flying the Dutch Government Boeing 737 BBJ, but he also flies for KLM on a regular basis. “It went very well for him,” Leeuwarden AB Commander Arnoud Stallmann said to “You can tell that he is an experienced pilot.” The King then visited the 1st operational F-35. Nine F-35s will arrive soon at the airbase.

MQ-9 Reaper
The King also received extensive information about the MQ-9 Reaper, an unmanned reconnaissance and attack aircraft, also commonly known as a drone or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). Four Reapers are expected to be delivered to the RNLAF 306 Squadron in Mid-2020. The former Reconnaissance Squadron – deactivated in 2010 – was re-established last year to be equipped with the Reapers next year. Two Reaper pilots already successfully finished their training earlier this year at Holloman AFB in New Mexico.

A MQ-9 Reaper at Holloman AFB
A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned reconnaissance and attack aircraft at Holloman AFB, home base for the training of future Reaper pilots. Photo: Ministerie van Defensie

The visit ended with the King talking to personnel from the new F-35 Squadron about the new fighter jet and their task now and in the future. On behalf of all the staff, Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt thanked the King for his interest in the staff and their new aircraft and systems.


(Head photo: Ministerie van Defensie)

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