one of the world’s largest private tactical jet air forces, is now set to add F-16A/B fighters to its roster after the Dutch government announced it had agreed to transfer 12 of the jets to the North American company. Draken will join fellow private contractor Top Aces in operating F-16s for “red air” adversary support, which is now in great demand, especially to fulfill the U.S. Air Force’s mammoth adversary air contract.
In a letter published today, the Dutch Secretary of State for Defense, Barbara Visser, confirmed that an agreement had been reached for the sale of a dozen ex-Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16A/Bs plus associated unspecified items.
“Draken International has been contracted by the U.S. government for years to take on the role of the enemy in U.S. Air Force and Navy exercises,” the letter explains. “These aircraft will be used exclusively on the basis of government contracts for support tasks during (inter)national exercises and training on American territory.”
The F-16A/Bs are becoming available as part of the RNLAF’s planned phase-out of the jet, or End Life of Type (ELOT) program. The 12 jets in question are due to become surplus next year, as deliveries of F-35A stealth fighters to the RNLAF continue.
As well as the 12 Vipers earmarked for Draken, the Dutch government has announced an option for the same firm to acquire another 28 examples, which are planned to be retired from RNLAF service by the end of 2024. Should that follow-on deal be taken up, Draken would end up with a fleet of 40 Vipers, compared to the 29 ex-Israeli F-16A/Bs that were acquired by rival Top Aces.