The 'Testgroup F-16' is not a squadron in the real sense of the word. All squadrons within the RNlAF are tasked to fly test missions with F-16 fighters. However the team at Volkel AB became bigger with more staff and a designated testing aircraft. This to perform tests that the USAF did not perform or in a different environment. In 1984 the first F-16A #J-646 was equipped with special wiring for this testing duty. It was called 'Orange Jumper' because of the orange color all the test wiring had. This to prevent mixing up the test wiring and the regular F-16 wiring. Because of the extensive testing that needed to be done on the F-16 another airframe, F-16B #J-653 was converted with test wiring.
The first real integration testing that was performed within the group was the AGM-65D 'Maverick'. This missile was extensively tested in the 1985-1986 timeframe with 84 mission flown from Volkel AB. It was decided at that point that the weapons serviceability was too low since its tracking could be seriously disturbed by smoke or bad weather and the workload for one pilot would be too high as well. In 1996 the Dutch purchased the AGM-65G version of the Maverick who doesn't have these shortcomings anymore and with the integration of the MLU version the workload of the pilot was kept to a minimum.
RNlAF F-16A block 15 #J-646
from the 'testgroep' is ready to perform a test flight with an Orpheus recce pod. [Michel Klaver
A next major integration testing was a project called 'Night Falcon'. In this project the possibilities of night attacking where examined. This included installing a FLIR device, larger HUD, radar altimeter, adjusted cockpit lighting and the use of NVG. This testing was performed in 1986 and 1987. At that point F-16A #J-646 was removed from the inventory and converted to a 'normal' F-16 again. At the same time F-16B #J-655 also received testing equipment. The testing showed the possibilities of the system but it only saw introduction on the fleet with the introduction of the MLU in 1998.
To proceed with the testing after the introduction of the MLU version, all the previously operated aircraft where converted to normal operating F-16s again and F-16B #J-066 was converted with the orange testing equipment. It therefore also carries an orange kangaroo on the tail to show its the current 'Orange Jumper' in the RNlAF. Today, the unit is based at Leeuwarden since the MLU OT&E team is based there as well. Testing is mainly focused on integration of new weapon systems on the MLU F-16.
Over the years a total of 4 airframes have undergone the conversion to testing airframe. All these airframes where operated by a squadron and never transferred to the testgroup F-16.
RNlAF F-16BM #J-066
is spotted taking off from Aalborg AB on June 12th, 2006. Note the big pitot tube. [Photo by Erik Frikke]