The Royal Netherlands Air Force's 322 Sqn will become the service's first operational unit to fly the Lockheed Martin F-35, after converting to the type from the Lockheed F-16.

Also currently located at Leeuwarden air base, 323 Sqn will end its operational duties with the F-16 on 1 November 2014. The unit will be relocated to the USA to take part in the F-35 programme's initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) phase, established alongside US and UK squadrons at Edwards AFB in California from 2015.

Lockheed has already delivered two conventional take-off and landing F-35As to the Royal Netherlands Air Force in the USA, to support the nation's involvement in IOT&E activities. Maj Laurens Jan Vijge in December 2013 became the first Dutch pilot to fly the type, from Eglin AFB in Florida.

Dutch F-35A - US Air Force

US Air Force

Meanwhile, the Dutch defence ministry has announced that the three Agusta-Bell AB412 search and rescue helicopters flown by its 303 Sqn will be retained in service until 1 January 2015 – one year longer than previously planned. The decision stems partly from the delayed introduction of the replacement NH Industries NH90.