The Royal Netherlands Air Force’s F-16s have been conducting operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve since late 2014, dropping their first munitions in Iraq in October of that year. Four RNLAF F-16s (plus 2 spares) are slated to remain in theater until July, with ground personnel staying until October.
Though the true effectiveness of the RNLAF Vipers has come into question in recent days due to the lack of SATCOM equipment, we’ll leave that alone for right now and focus instead on what this particular F-16 does have: an interesting history yet potentially uncertain fate.
Born as serial #80-3637, the F-16A J-637 was originally built under license by Fokker aircraft, and was part of the first batch of block 15 F-16s to be roll off the final assembly line at the Schiphol plant. Though it was initially rotated around the RNLAF squadrons, by December 2000 the jet received the Mid-Life Update (MLU).
That particular upgrade added beyond visual range (BVR) capabilities and provided for the use of precision-guided munitions. Newly updated to Block 20 standard and designated an F-16AM, J-637 was subsequently delivered to 312 Squadron “Bonzo” at Volkel Air Base.
In late 2004, while 312 Squadron was deployed in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations in Afghanistan, J-637 suffered a nose gear collapse while landing at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. After repairs lasting for several months, J-637 was back in the air the very next year and returned home to Volkel.
In late 2010, the NATO Tiger Association held the annual Tiger Meet at Volkel and although 312Sqn is not a Tiger unit, they participated in the Combined Air Operations missions alongside 313 Squadron. J-637 took part, seen here with its Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 motor blazing away, offering up 23,770 pounds of thrust and a hint of vapor over the wings thanks to the damp Dutch autumn weather.
Peeling your eyes slightly north and away from that glorious P&W afterburner, the jet’s parachute braking system is safely packed away at the base of the vertical stabilizer. Only a select number of F-16 operators have provisions for a parachute system, others include both the Polish and Norwegian air forces.
The RNLAF has been divesting a large portion of its F-16 force for over a decade, and continues to do so as it prepares to bring the F-35 online in the coming years. In 2014, J-637 was one of the frames slated to be sold to the Royal Jordanian Air Force after rework at Volkel, though for now it appears it has yet to leave the Dutch nest that it has called home for over 16 years.
Audax Cum Consilio!