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Project Disposal F-16; Volkel, April 13, 2016

F-16s are Prepared to be Sold; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Since the sale of the first series of F-16s in the Netherlands the Project Disposal F-16 (Project Afstoting F-16) was created. This project group needs to prepare the F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force for delivery to the new owner. Currently there are at Volkel Air Base 15 F-15s which are prepared ready for sale.

The F-16 is already in operational service of the Royal Netherlands Air Force since the early 80s. The aircraft perform their tasks very well since they were bought in the late 70s. Initially the aircraft were purchased for the air defense role and later also the offensive role was added to its tasks. The aircraft and helicopters of the Royal Netherlands Air Force are deployed over the years in different theaters of operation. Currently, the F-16s are actively deployed in the Middle East in Iraq and Syria. Te Defense Staff receives in the Netherlands more and more recognition for the tasks in these various mission areas. This is unfortunately not the case for the amount of used equipment. Since the 90s, the F-16s have constantly been deployed and many F-16s are sold second hand since the last years. All F-16s which are currently in storage are stored at Volkel. These aircraft were stored as a result of the latest reorganization and cutbacks. The F-16s are in the meanwhile sold to the Jordanian Air Force. On April 13, 2016, the sold F-16s were parked on the flightline in the safari park for a photo shoot. The safari park is the old flightline of the former no 306 photo reconnaissance squadron which was stationed at Volkel in the past. The aircraft which were shown on this flight line, were; the J-057, J-145, J-193, J-199, J-208, J-510, J-623, J-637, J-638, J 868, J-870, J-872, J-873, J-876 and J-884. Also were the J-202, J-222, J-229 and J-268 at the safari park during the photo shoot. The Air Force invited for this day more than 200 aviation photographers who were able to capture the F-16s on this flight line. The disposal of the first batch of MLU F-16s began in 2004.

After the closure of Twenthe Air Base in 2004, it was decided to sell a part of the Dutch F-16 fleet. A batch of 18 aircraft was for sale. These aircraft were purchased by the Chilean government after a period of 1.5 years. The 18 aircraft were withdrawn from use by the abolition of the no 315 Squadron at the former Twenthe Air Base. The Dutch government signed the agreement with the Chileans to deliver 18 aircraft on

December 16, 2005. The F-16s would leave to Chile in three batches of six aircraft. The delivery of these aircraft took place in 2006 and 2007. All F-16s departed from Twenthe Air Base. The first batch of F-16s departed from Twenthe Air Base on September 4, 2006. Half a year later, on April 5, 2007, the second batch of F-16s left for Chile. The last batch left another three months later on July 3, 2007. The aircraft were all painted in the Chilean colors and they were all equipped with new serials according to the Chilean system. All the aircraft still had the Dutch serials during their departure, because the aircraft were flown by Dutch pilots. These numbers were pasted with stickers over the original Chilean serials. Also, the Chilean star on the tail of the F-16s was masked and replaced by a Dutch Air Force emblem on the back.

The second set of F-16s was prepared for sale in 2009. This time the buyer was Jordan. In total, the Jordanian government bought six F-16BMs of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. These aircraft departed to Jordan on July 28, 2009 from Leeuwarden Air Base. Another set of major cutbacks in defense was announced in 2008. Again 18 F-16s were withdrawn from use. These F-16s came also for sale. The Dutch and Chilean government made again an agreement for the delivery of 18 Dutch F-16s. Again, the F-16s were delivered in three batches of six aircraft. The first batch of six F-16s departed from Leeuwarden Air Base to Chile on November 4, 2010. Besides the airworthy F-16s, also the J-255 was sold to the Chileans to serve as ground instructional aircraft. The second delivery of the program took place on April 4, 2011. A batch of five F-16s left from Volkel Air Base to Chile. Originally there were six F-16s in the batch, but the J-627 was forced to land due to a technical issue during the flight. The F-16 turned back to the Netherlands. A day later, the J-058 (758) was provided as compensation for the J-627. The J-627 would be delivered during the third batch. The third and final delivery to the Chileans was planned on August 29, 2011. One of the F-16s was also this time broken during start up. It was again the J-627. This aircraft would not depart this day. The other five F-16s left according to schedule. These aircraft departed from Volkel Air Base. The intention was that the J-627 (743) would depart one day later to join the other five F-16s.

On April 8, 2011, the Minister of Defense announced the cutbacks in defense. The Council of Ministers agreed with these major cutbacks. The retirement of these F-16s was already realized on May 8, 2011. An amount of nineteen F-16s had to be withdrawn from use in both Leeuwarden and Volkel. There will be a total of 69 F-16s left for the Royal Netherlands Air Force for operational use. The withdrawal of these F-16s had disastrous consequences for the no 311 Squadron at Volkel Air Base. As of May 8, 2011, the unit was inactivated as a result of these cutbacks. After more than 60 years an end came to the existence of this unit. Of the nineteen F-16 aircraft the air force will sell fifteen aircraft. The remaining four aircraft are recycled by the air force for major components such as the wings and engines and parts which are difficult or even impossible to obtain on the market. The aircraft are used for the training of technical personnel. Incidentally, the Ministry of Defense did not ground the nineteen F-16s directly. The F-16s would fly until the air frames are sold to a customer. The Ministry of Defense has made a selection of aircraft which will be sold. These are relatively old aircraft which are largely delivered in the first half of the eighties to the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The minister decided in 2013 with the notes in the ‘interests of the Netherlands’ to reduce the operational fleet from 68 to 61 aircraft. The Air Force continues to have 68 F-16s in possession but they will fly less flight hours each year. The idea is that the aircraft will require less maintenance and their availability will be improved as well.

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