Royal Netherlands Air Force participate in Red Flag-Nellis 24-2

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jose Miguel T. Tamondong
  • 57th Wing Public Affairs

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and Dutch F-35 Lightning IIs flew missions together on the eastern flank to protect NATO airspace.

Being two hours away by air from the conflict, Air Commodore Johan van Deventer, commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Air Combat Command, recognized the importance of keeping the RNLAF ready and enhancing their fifth-generation fighter interoperability with coalition partners. As such, he knew that providing his team with the top-tier training only Red Flag-Nellis can offer was a strategic necessity.

The United States Air Force holds that allies and partners are a force multiplier and one of the greatest strategic assets for this nation, and future success depends on how well U.S. forces combine with a broad range of allied and partner capabilities and expertise, to secure and promote shared values.

“The Royal Netherlands Air Force, Air Combat Command specifically, is here at Nellis to get the high-end training that we need,” said Van Deventer. “We live in a very unstable world, and we must be ready to fight tonight and win from any aggressor.”

RF-N 24-2 affords its participants the opportunity to fly and train in the Nevada Test and Training Range that spans more than 12,000 square miles and 2.9 million acres of land which is roughly the size of the Netherlands.

“With the big piece of airspace and the big range that’s below it, it’s a golden opportunity for us to get this training,” said Van Deventer. “It’s very good to have almost no limits and to get all the threats around and prepare our pilots for the first couple of missions that they have to fly during wartime.”

Another priority of this RF-N iteration is fifth-generation interoperability, specifically with the F-35s. These advanced aircraft bring unprecedented capabilities, including enhanced stealth, sensor fusion, and network connectivity, which affords the ability to maintain air superiority and deter potential adversaries. Coordination and joint operations during critical missions can be enhanced by operating with a common platform and leveraging advanced communication systems.

“Our F-35 is a fifth-gen platform and an aircraft you want to cooperate with in a coalition,” Van Deventer said. “The way it’s getting and exchanging information is typical for a fifth-gen platform. So, you want to share that information with all your coalition partners to make the coalition stronger and better, and this is the place to train to the full extent.”

With the Netherlands’ close proximity to Russia and Ukraine, Van Deventer reiterated the importance of getting high-end quality training to ensure its readiness to integrate with coalition partners.

“Back in Europe, the threat is very close. We only live an hour and a half away [by air] from Kaliningrad, Russia. And the war in Ukraine is only two hours away from us,” said Van Deventer. “We need to be ready to fight tonight and to deter the aggressor and make sure that peace stays in Europe.”

In his first visit to Nellis Air Force Base as the new commander of the Air Combat Command, Gen. Ken Wilsbach recognized the ongoing challenges in the world and highlighted the strategic importance of strengthening our relationship with our allies and partners.

“We have many nations that are like-minded with us and if we can incorporate them into a strategy against those challenger nations,” said Wilsbach. “Those challenger nations don’t have to just deal with the United States, they also would have to deal with our allies and partners. That’s a strength and we should propagate that as much as we can because it’s effective.”

In Europe, there are multiple NATO nations flying the same airplane, using each other’s Special Access Program facilities, and passing tactical data over advanced datalinks on a frequent basis. As one of the United States’ European coalition partners and a long-standing NATO ally, Van Deventer expressed the importance of strengthening the interoperability between the RNLAF and the United States.

“My airmen and I are very excited about this exercise,” Van Deventer said. “Interoperability is key to coalition warfare and that’s why we go and do what we do here. We plan together, we brief together, we fight together, and we debrief together. And even after the debrief, the coalition is built with a cup of coffee so that we make sure that we can fight tonight with the complete team as one strong coalition.”