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Netherlands first to declare F-35s performing nuclear role

Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35As operated by 313 Squadron at Volkel Air Base will now undertake the country's nuclear mission on behalf of NATO. (Royal Netherlands Air Force)

The Netherlands has become the first operator of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to publicly declare that its aircraft have now taken on the nuclear mission.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) said that it had now fully transitioned the nuclear deterrence mission it performs on behalf of NATO over to the F-35A from the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon.

β€œOn 1 June the [F-35A] advanced fighter aircraft [took] over the nuclear role of the Netherlands within NATO from the F-16,” the RNLAF said. β€œThe Netherlands is one of the NATO allies that contributes dual-capable aircraft [DCA] to NATO's nuclear deterrence, and is the first European country transitioning to the F-35 in that context.”

The Netherlands is acquiring 52 F-35As to cover nuclear and conventional strike roles. With the type flown across two squadrons based at Leeuwarden Air Base (322 Squadron) and Volkel Air Base (313 Squadron) respectively, it is the latter that will perform the nuclear role.

As suggested in the statement, while the first F-35 operator to declare its F-35A DCAs to be performing the nuclear role, it is likely not the first to actually make the transition. Though not named, both the US Air Force (USAF) and Israel will have likely done the same already.

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