F-16 Flight Showcases Operational Strength

Text by Joris van Boven and Alex van Noije
Photography by Joris van Boven
On Friday, December 8, 2023, a mass take-off was held at Volkel Air Base with the last Netherlands Royal Air Force F-16s.
Netherlands Armed Forces
There were 16 F-16s on the flight line, of which 13 aircraft ultimately took to the air. Two F-16s remained behind on the flight line, and one aircraft ultimately did not participate in the flight. This was done to test the readiness and to demonstrate the operational strength.

“Good to show how much air power we can generate in this transition phase,” said Commander of 312 Squadron Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Vreeburg. “It is the last year of the F-16. Furthermore, it is important to monitor the readiness of these devices. The employability is still very high. Not only for this transition phase, but I have never seen it this good in the last twenty years."
Before take-off, a so-called 'elephant walk' took place, during which 14 F-16s slowly taxied over the length of the runway, before 13 aircraft finally took off from Volkel Air Base.

The aircraft that took part in the Elephant Walk flew a 'standard mission' to training areas above the North Sea and the Danish areas. To manage all of this, a team effort was required from all 270 men and women who make up the 312 Squadron. The unit has had this size since the 313 Squadron and most of the 900 Maintenance Squadron were integrated into the 312 Squadron in 2021. According to Vreeburg, “That merger has really paid off in terms of the deployability of aircraft.”
The very first Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16 was delivered to the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1979. 312 Squadron will fly the F-16 until approximately September 2024, after which the aircraft will be permanently taken out of service.

This grey day was a bit hampered by low clouds and a light ground fog.