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Dutch F-35s land in Bulgaria for NATO air policing mission

Dutch F-35A in Bulgaria
One of the Dutch F-35As in Bulgaria. Photo: The Netherlands defense ministry

The Royal Netherlands Air Force has deployed four F-35A fifth-generation fighters to Bulgaria where they will support NATO’s air policing mission.

The aircraft landed at the Bulgarian air base Graf Ignatievo on April 6 after taking off from the Leeuwarden air base in the Netherlands earlier in the day. The Graf Ignatievo base is located about 130 kilometers southeast of the capital Sofia.

As explained by the country’s defense ministry, two of the aircraft will be always available for the monitoring of the airspace of the alliance on the eastern flank, while the other two will serve as backup.

The aircraft have been placed under the command of Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Saceur). The Dutch are also the first NATO ally to employ 5th generation fighter aircraft to the air policing mission in the southeast of Europe.

It should be noted that the UK and UK previously deployed their fifth-generation fighters for similar missions out of Estonia and Lithuania.

The Netherlands is deploying its newest fighter jets to the Black Sea region in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The deployments this year mark the first time the Netherlands is using the fighters operationally after declaring an initial operational capability for the aircraft in December last year.