PICTURE: First Dutch F-35 leaves assembly line

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Lockheed Martin has rolled out the first F-35A Lightning II to have been produced for an international customer, with aircraft AN-1 to be flown by the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Pictured leaving the company's Fort Worth final assembly line in Texas on 1 April, the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) aircraft will support Dutch participation in initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) of the Joint Strike Fighter.

"AN-1 will undergo functional fuel system checks before being transported to the flight line for ground and flight tests in the coming weeks," Lockheed says. It will later be transferred to the US Air Force's Eglin AFB in Florida for use by Dutch pilots and maintainers during training and operational testing.

 

© Lockheed Martin

US-led IOT&E activities will also involve the UK, which should receive its first of two short take-off and vertical landing F-35Bs next month.

The Netherlands will acquire two CTOL aircraft to support its involvement in operational testing of the F-35, with the nation's parliament having approved the purchase of the second late last year. The nation will eventually buy about 84 operational examples under current plans.

Meanwhile, a new report in the Netherlands claims an estimated budget shortfall of €300 million ($392 million) related to a three-year operating extension to the nation's fleet of Lockheed F-16AM/BMs has increased in cost since being calculated last year. However, defence minister Hans Hillen has countered the claims of the General Court document.