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Dutch F-16 pilots to train at Springfield AB, Ohio

December 10, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - F-16 pilots for the Royal Netherlands Air Force will soon begin training in the U.S. at the Air National Guard base in Springfield, Ohio.

USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0315 from 162 FS (Ohio ANG) based at Springfield AB, seen taking some gas in May of 2004. [USAF photo]

The Dutch were looking to establish a Continental United States (CONUS)-based F-16 Formal Training Unit (FTU) as they are a bit cramped for training space.

Under the agreement, 16 Dutch pilots will be trained at the base each year beginning in May 2007 and continuing until September of 2010. In addition, base workers will maintain 14 Dutch jets.

That will bring new life to an installation that had been slated to close in 2010 under the Base Realignment and Closure plan.

The Dutch and American governments signed a letter of agreement on Friday.

The contract, which could go as high as $200 million, currently runs through 2010, with some optional additional time, but base supporters hope that other countries also sign on, encouraging the Dutch to stay longer.

Negotiations on training foreign pilots from three other countries are in the works.

The base can train up to 16 foreign pilots in three different courses each year, while also continuing to teach current pilots.

The base has had more than $76 million in upgrades but it will need some alterations to accommodate the Dutch jets, which use a different engine than the Springfield F-16s. Springfield also has two 360-degree flight simulators, a high recruitment rate and boasts a near-perfect graduation rate.

The 1,400-acre airport is located at the heart of air travel and cargo activity in Southwestern Ohio. The weather and air space restrictions also are similar to what Dutch pilots deal with at home.

The foreign training mission provides protection from future BRAC rounds. The other countries pay for the missions, so it isn't subject to BRAC reviews.

The base will continue training U.S. pilots until 2010.