Dutch F-35s support NATO’s Deter and Defend mission

Since end of January, eight Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 fighter jets have been deployed to Malbork Air Base in Poland. With their presence, they contribute to NATO’s Deter and Defence mission along the eastern flank flying Air Policing sorties and training with Allies in the region.

“Our jets have been closely integrated into NATO’s Deter and Defend posture here at Malbork with our twofold mission,” said Lieutenant Colonel Guido Schols, commander of the 160-strong F-35 detachment. “Under the control of the Polish Air Operations Centre in Warsaw and NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem we have monitored the skies and conducted regular training activities with Allies showcasing our F-35s’ capability across the spectrum of combined and joint Air Power missions,” he added.

The 5th generation fighter jets have executed approx. 150 sorties with some 300 flight hours. They launched four times on alert scrambles to identify, intercept and escort Russian military aircraft flying near Alliance borders above the Baltic Sea. During their training, Lieutenant Colonel Schols’ pilots flew missions simulating Defensive Counter Air, Integrated Air and Missile Defence, Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defence, Basic Fighter Manoeuvres, Air Combat Manoeuvre and Training Intercepts with French, German, Polish and US jets, NATO AWACS and Allied Surface- Based Air and Missile Defence systems.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force brought with them a bespoke team of maintainers and logisticians who established the structures required to bed-down the F-35s. They work around the clock to ensure the fighters are ready. “This has been a big part of our pre-deployment preparation work in January,” said First Lieutenant Jef de Wit, an F-35 Maintenance Officer. “Since the Polish fly their MiG-29s out of Malbork, we re-organised and adapted parts of the base infrastructure to meet the needs for 5th generation fighter operation – always with great support from our Polish hosts,” he added.

Dutch F-35s conducted their first operational NATO deployment abroad in Bulgaria in 2022 supporting the Alliance’s enhanced Air Policing in the southeastern area; Lieutenant Colonel Schols also led that deployment. “A lot of lessons learned from our stay in Bulgaria have enabled our team here in Poland. Moreover, Malbork is not unknown to the Royal Netherlands Air Force ; back in 2014 we were among the first Allies who deployed fast jets here – at the time our F-16s – contributing to NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea reassuring our eastern Allies,” he added. “We are going to wrap up our contribution to the NATO mission along the eastern flank at the beginning of April; it has been another confirmation of the Netherlands’ rock-solid commitment to Alliance collective deterrence and defence in the aftermath of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine,” he concluded.



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