In 2015, the Dutch Minister of Defense made a commitment to do everything in her power to bring an F-35 to the Netherlands, as a means by which to remove concerns of residents in the areas of Leeuwarden and Volkel and to allow local residents experience the sound of the F-35 while also affording them the opportunity to voice their opinions.
Since then, the arrival of the F-35 to the Netherlands has indeed happened. Monday, two Dutch F-35s arrived at the airbase in Leeuwarden, making it possible to conduct two test flights. On Thursday, May 26, these flights were successfully performed in the areas close to the airbases at Volkel and Leeuwarden.
The F-35 flew in the afternoon and early evening, including an afterburner take-off, which was requested by the residents, the F-35 flew profiles alongside an F-16 - as they would normally do from both bases. The aircraft flew 28 sorties in order to give the local residents suffice opportunity to really experience exact noise levels.
The Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) conducted noise level test during these test flights. Earlier today, the first test results were presented to the members of the Commission for Consultation and Awareness for Environmental Health (COVM) as well as the media. Since then, there has been a lot of enthusiasm for participation in the survey. Survey participants were well distributed across the area.
Generally, the survey states that the local residents note only small differences; this is supported by sound measurements in the nine settlements. The maximum difference was approximately 3dB. At present, the NLR is working on the results of the second flight. When this has been completed, a further analysis of the data will be made. The final report will eventually be presented at the COVM meeting of the airbases of Leeuwarden and Volkel. The results of the tests will also be used by the steering committee for the execution of the Eijsink motion for the completion of the permanent noise monitoring.
Residents believe that dominant winds will route most take-offs F-35 over the village of Jelsum, where they fear noise levels will increase substantially. (Google map image)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The difference of 3 decibels reported for the first flight measured at Leeuwarden is actually considerable, as decibels are measured on a logarithmical scale, but as the Dutch Air Force did not release the actual values recorded, it is impossible to determine how big the difference actually is.
Two residents interviewed by this writer on May 29 said the F-35’s noise is “deeper and stronger” than the F-16’s, and that the F-35 causes more vibrations. One resident said the F-35 had blown roof tiles off roofs in the village of Jelsum, which he said rarely happens with the F-16.)
-- June 02: corrected Editor's Note and map caption to reflect that the F-35 will be able to use the East-West runway, which is not too short for the F-35 as originally claimed by a local resident.
That runway has not been fitted with an F-35-certified arresting cable system, but that can be resolved quickly, according to the Dutch air force.