“We’ve got him!” declared the Dutch Ministry of Defence after the arrival of the country’s first operationally-assigned Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF).
The aircraft arrived at Leeuwarden Air Base, in the north of the Netherlands, a few days ago to great fanfare, as the Dutch replace their ageing F-16 fleet and move towards fifth-generation capability for the RNLAF.
While it's technically the "first" F-35A for the RNLAF, the nation currently owns eight of the fighters but they are based in the US as part of the international training and test evaluation fleets.
The Netherlands has committed to purchasing 46 F-35A Lightning II JSFs, the largest military purchase in the country's history, valued at about $9 billion.
"We’ve got him! Gistermiddag arriveerde op vliegbasis Leeuwarden de aller eerste F-35 die definitief in Nederland gestationeerd wordt. Wij kunnen niet wachten op de volgende toestellen", the Dutch Ministry of Defence tweeted out upon the vehicles arrival.
"We've got him! Yesterday afternoon, the very first F-35 arrived at Leeuwarden air base, which will be permanently stationed in the Netherlands. We cannot wait for the following devices," that tweet translates to.
However, the arrival of the aircraft may have been soured by the need for the aircraft to now undergo a very thorough cleansing, after accidentally being doused in fire retardant foam instead of water, which you can tell in the above picture.
This foam is highly corrosive, meaning the F-35A will need to undergo a very strict cleaning to ensure the frame of the aircraft isn't damaged.
Regardless of the hiccup, the Dutch, much like the rest of the international partners of the F-35 program, are clearly excited about moving towards a fifth-generation air force.
"A little over 40 years ago, the first Dutch F-16 was welcomed here. It was called 'the aircraft of the future'," said Dutch State Secretary Barbara Visser, following the arrival of aircraft F-009.
"While the F-16 used a computer-controlled operating system for the first time, computers and software play such a major role with the F-35 that it is sometimes called a flying laptop. That means a huge change in our work."
And it wasn't just the politicians who were happy about the arrival of the aircraft.
"Holy c---! For a moment I feel that teenager on a very cool skateboard in Florida," said Lieutenant Colonel Laurens-Jan 'Sjoak' Vijge about his 'first flight' in the F-35.
"This device goes like a rocket."
Replacing the F-16 likely can't come soon enough for the RNLAF, particularly after a bizarre incident earlier this year when one of their aircraft damaged itself with its own gunfire during a training exercise nearby the Leeuwarden Air Base.
The damage occurred after the aircraft flew into its own stream of cannon rounds, sustaining considerable damage to the exterior of the aircraft and engine, forcing an emergency landing.