The F-16 with tail code J-643 started its service life on 17 March 1986 with 306 Squadron. It was scrapped in May 2019.*

Since 29 March 2024 the defence of aerospace of the Netherlands is no longer a task for the Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16 Fighting Falcon, type nickname "Viper". After 43 years of Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) the task has been transferred to the new Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. 
For the QRA, typically two aircraft were armed and combat ready at all times to scramble and intercept any threats, usually Soviet and later Russian military aircraft coming too close to NATO airspace. Since the 11 September 2001 airplane attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, intercepts of commercial airliners and smaller aircraft with lost radio contact were added.
RNLAF F-16A with tail code J-142 started its service life on 15 February 1988 with 315 Squadron. In 2019 or 2020 it was stored at Volkel Airbase. It was sold to Portugal to be canabalized for spare parts. *
Cold War vibes
The Royal Netherlands Air Force received 177 F-16A single- and 36 F-16B two-seaters, a massive purchase for a relatively small country. It clearly reflected the Cold War vibes. The Soviet Union and its forced allies of the Warsaw Pact were seen as a clear and present danger.
Fokker factory
Many of the Dutch F-16s were built by the indigenous Fokker factory at Schiphol airport, with the first aircraft taking off on 3 May 1979, piloted by Henk Temmen. A month later the first F-16 was handed over to the Koninklijke Luchtmacht. The final, 213th RNLAF F-16 rolled out of the factory on 27 February 1992, with tail code J-021. 
By then it quickly became clear those massive numbers would soon diminish. In October 1991 the Berlin Wall fell. And especially after the wars in the Former Yugoslavian Republics from 1992 to 1995, Europe was entering a period of relative calmness. In 2003 the Dutch government decided to cut the fleet of F-16s by 25%, and more cuts followed.
The Year 2014
Europe's peace came slowly to an end after Russian leader Putin decided to take the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine in February 2014, but it took most nations another eight years to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine to wake up.
The photos of this commemorative album of the Dutch Vipers are from that year, 2014. Taken at Gilze-Rijen Air Base in the Netherlands, and Schleswig-Jagel Air Base in Germany.

RNLAF F-16A with tail code J-632 started its service life on 02 May 1983. It flew with 306, 311, 312, 313 and 322 Squadron. Since 2023 it is used as a so-called instructional airframe, for training purposes, at Volkel Airbase.*

Modernized and to war
The Dutch Vipers leave their service life with the Koninklijke Luchtmacht as F-16AM and F-16BM, having been modernized to better standards. 24 of them will be donated to the Ukrainian Air Force. A dozen are already pre-positioned with the European F-16 Training Center (EFTC) at the  Baza 86 Aeriana near Fetești, Romania. Here, RNLAF pilots and those of other countries train both Romanian and Ukrainian pilots on the type. 
During their more than 40 years of service, the Netherlands used its F-16s a couple of times in anger. Firstly, over former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, where Dutch F-16s engaged ground targets and shot down a Serbian MiG-29. In 2002 to 2004 a small detachment of Dutch F-16s supported the Western nations' presence in Afghanistan out of Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan. Between 2014 and 2018 RNLAF F-16s flew 2,100 live bombing and ground support missions over Syria and Iraq, officially targeting ISIS (Daesh) positions. The mission debriefings are classified, but the Dutch media have reported that mistakes were made - likely by wrong intel, and this resulted in the death of at least 70 civilians in 2015.
RNLAF F-16s sold, lost and on display
Former F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force were sold between 2006 and 2017 and fly on in Chile (37 aircraft delivered) and Jordan (21 aircraft delivered). According to the Netherlands national audit authority (Algemene Rekenkamer) a total of 37 RNLAF Vipers were lost in accidents, 18 were scrapped, 12 are saved as static display at museums and air bases and 18 are used for non-flying training purposes. 
By 2020, only 68 remained in service - after which the gradual replacement by the new F-35 started. Orders call for 52 F-35s, of which the first landed at Leeuwarden Air Base in 2019. Volkel Air Base is home to F-35s as well. It were two F-16s from Volkel that scrambled for the last Quick Reaction Alert on 28 March 2024 - a training flight this time with the fake enemy being another pair of still operational F-16s.

RNLAF F-16A with tail code J-616 started its service life on 15 May 1982 with 311 Squadron. It will be put on display as a "gate guard" at Volkel Airbase.*

Photo of a mock-up attack during the Military Airshow of Gilze-Rijen Air Base in 2014.

RNLAF F-16A with tail code J-201 started its service life on 02 April 1986 with 315 Squadron. In 2022 it was stored at Volkel Airbase, and this one is reportedly could be among the 24 to be delivered to the Ukrainian Air Force. It has been seen in Romania with the EFTC.*

Back to Top