The final Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 fighter landed at Morris Air National Guard (ANG) base in Arizona one last time on July 29, marking the end of a 32-year international training relationship.
The Dutch were the first in a long line of foreign partners to train at Morris ANG Base, flying an average of 2,000 hours per year in the F-16 and graduating four student pilots every nine months as part of the 148th Fighter Squadron.
That training is no longer needed as the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) plans on retiring the F-16 in 2024, after well over 40 years of service.
US and Dutch dignitaries, and Air National Guard Airmen and RNLAF personnel celebrated the end of an era at Morris.
“Arizona has developed an ever-lasting relationship with the Netherlands that will continue to strengthen interoperability between the United States and foreign partner nations across the globe,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Butler, 162nd Wing Commander. “This has been a partnership that extends beyond any other witnessed in National Guard history,” he said.
“I was a student in the 148th Fighter Squadron in 1991,” said Lt. Col. Joost Luijsterburg, RNLAF detachment commander. “That was 31 years ago and now I’m going to close this unit… It is the end of an era,” he said.
Luijsterburg has already assumed command of the Dutch F-35 detachment at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and has been acting as dual commander of both detachments.
The RNLAF has commenced transition from the F-16 to the F-35 after declaring initial operational capability (IOC) for the fifth-generation fighters in late 2021. Earlier this year, the defense ministry announced its decision to accelerate the purchase of an additional six F-35s, bringing the total fleet on order to 52.
The air force operated of a total of 213 F-16s over the years, having received the final airframe in February 1992.