Royal Netherlands Air Force: Starfighters
In the sixties and seventies the European skies were practically filled with one of the most recognizable fighter planes in modern aviation history: the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. Although the F-104 did not have a major career within the United States Air Force (USAF only purchased 296 F 104s), it was acquired enthusiastically by foreign air forces (albeit in some cases Royal palms had to be greased in order to land the contract, but that’s a different story…), with Lockheed licensing the type for manufacture in a number of nations.
Royal Netherlands Air Force
One of the buyers of the F-104s was the Royal Netherlands Air Force. In December 1959, the Dutch government announced that the Starfighter was going to replace the Hawker Hunter and the F-86K Sabre. The Royal Netherlands Air Force bought no less than 138 Starfighters. 95 of them were built in The Netherlands by Fokker (registration numbers in the 8000 series), 25 in Italy by FIAT (6000 numbers) and the 18 trainers were produced by Lockheed (5000 numbers) in the United States. The five squadrons that operated the Starfighter were (in numerical order): 306 Squadron at Twente AB (moved to Volkel AB in 1969), 311 and 312 Squadron at Volkel AB and 322 and 323 Squadron flying out of Leeuwarden AB. On December 12, 1962 the first two F 104G Starfighters (D-8013 and D-8022) arrived at Twente AB. The first TF-104G arrived in June 1963.
In September 1963, 306 Squadron started to replace their F/TF-104s for the RF-104G, the reconnaissance version of the Starfighter. In the 18 Dutch RF-104s, the standard Fairchild aerial cameras were replaced by Dutch cameras from “Optische Industrie De Oude Delft”. In 1973 the onboard cameras were replaced by a 3.5 meters long container, better known as the “Orpheus pod”, which contained a panchromatic camera and an infrared scanner, usable in all weather conditions.
The end of the Starfighter era
After being in service for 22 years, the Royal Netherlands Air Force flew the last Starfighter mission on November 21, 1984. The Netherlands Air Force flew approximately 345,000 hours with the F-104. During that period 43 Starfighters were written off due to accidents. A large amount of Starfighters (43 F/R-104Gs and 10 TF-104Gs) were sold to the Turkish Air Force.