The Netherlands will sell twelve of its surplus F-16 fighter jets to Draken International, the Defense Secretary of State Barbara Visser announced to the Dutch parliament in a letter. The US-based company will use the aircraft as “aggressors” during training exercises for the U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (KLu) is progressively replacing its F-16s, in service since 1979, with the F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter. The first operational F-35A fighter jet arrived in Leeuwarden Air Base, on October 31, 2019. Eighteen of the 45 planes ordered have already been delivered to the United States and the Netherlands.
The twelve F-16s will be retired from 2022, with 28 more, on which Draken International holds an option, to be withdrawn in phases in the following years. On July 1, 2021, the F-16s based in Leeuwarden Air Base will officially retire, with pilots and technicians moving to Volkel Air Base from where the aircraft will continue to operate until 2024.
Draken International is among the seven companies that were awarded $6.4 billion worth of contracts by the Pentagon in October 2019 to provide realistic training to the USAF. The company previously purchased 22 Mirage F1s which previously served within the Spanish Air Force. The role of the private fighter fleet is to offer an opponent during the training of the United States Air Force fighter pilots.