- Defence Materiel Organisation
- F-16 replacement
F-16 replacement project
In the early 1970s, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) needed a successor to the F-104G Starfighter and the NF-5A Freedom Fighter. Together with Belgium, Denmark and Norway, the Netherlands investigated several options. There were various candidates, namely: the French Mirage F-1, the Swedish Saab Viggen, the Northrop F-17 Cobra and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.
In May 1975, the Dutch government decided to purchase eighty-four F-16s with an option to buy another eighteen aircraft. A total of 213 F-16s were purchased, the first of which was delivered to Leeuwarden Air Base on 6 June 1979 and the last on 27 February 1992.
The introduction of the F-16 not only meant the introduction of a new aircraft, but of a whole new concept of operations. Previously, the squadrons had specialised in one task. The capabilities of the F-16, however, made it possible to introduce the swing-role concept, in which several tasks could be performed, if necessary within a single mission.
The F-16 can carry a wide variety of bombs and missiles, such as free-falling bombs and precision-guided weapons. The F-16 can also carry extra fuel tanks and electronic jamming equipment.
For reconnaissance purposes, the Royal Netherlands Air Force has special camera pods at its disposal. This reconnaissance capability is not only used during peacekeeping missions, but also for judicial tasks and to photograph river dykes in the event of extremely high water levels.
The projected lifespan of the F-16 was 20 years. By the mid-1990s, however, there was no suitable successor to the Dutch F-16s. In 1998, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) decided to modernise the F-16 by means of a Mid-Life Update (MLU) in order to lengthen the operational lifespan of the aircraft by about ten years. Major improvements were:
- New radar software - More effective operations at night and in bad weather.
- Introduction of identification software, new fire control software – Detection and identification of targets at a greater distance.
- Improvement of the cockpit – Reduces the pilot’s workload.
- Global Positioning System (GPS) – Improves the accuracy of ground attacks.
In 2008, after several reorganisations, the Royal Netherlands Air Force had the following F-16 squadrons:
- Leeuwarden Air Base: 322 and 323 Squadrons.
- Volkel Air Base: 306, 311, 312 and 313 Squadrons.