First Dutch Lightning Unit

The Royal Netherlands Air Force inaugurated its first F-35 Lighting II squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., in a flag ceremony there last week. Number 323 Squadron furled its colors as an F-16 unit at Leeuwarden AB, Netherlands, on Nov. 4 and temporarily relocated to Eglin before heading to Edwards AFB, Calif., where it will conduct operational testing and evaluation for the Dutch F-35 program. “Performing OT&Es is a familiar task for 323 Squadron,” Eglin detachment commander Royal Netherlands Air Force Col. Bert de Smit, said in a release. The unit also handled the RLNAF operational testing of the F-16. “Now the squadron has been given the honourable task of preparing the defense organization for operations with an extremely versatile fifth-generation jet fighter,” he added. The Dutch plan to operate at least 37 F-35As. Two Dutch jets are currently flying at Eglin. The squadron is scheduled to move to Edwards at the end of the year.