Two Dutch F-35A Lightning IIs deployed from Edwards AFB, Calif., to Leeuwarden AB, Netherlands, touched down on home soil for the first time last week, Royal Netherlands Air Force officials announced. The jets began three weeks of airspace integration trials with noise impact studies at Leeuwarden and Volkel air bases, where the jets will eventually be based. Initial results indicate the F-35 is less than three decibels louder than the F-16s currently operating at the two bases, according to a May 27 release. Operational testers are taking advantage of the opportunity to evaluate the F-35’s ability to operate abroad as well. “We’ve turned it into a deployment that fits really well in our operational test activities,” RNLAF Col. Albert de Smit said in an Edwards release. The Air Force deployed several F-35s stateside to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, earlier this year but “one of the things we have not done is a long-range overseas deployment,” added de Smit. The Dutch F-35s are currently based at Edwards as part of the international combined test force. The RNLAF plans to recapitalize its upgraded legacy F-16A/B fleet with a total of 37 F-35As, the first of which will relocate to the Netherlands in 2019. F-35s undertook tanker certifications with the Dutch KDC-10 in March, ahead of for the first trans-Atlantic crossing from the United States to Europe on May 23.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.