The Netherlands Accidentally Welcomed its First Operational F-35 with a Foam Bath

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The Netherlands first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter gets an accidental foam bath. Royal Dutch Air Force photo
The Netherlands first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter gets an accidental foam bath. Royal Dutch Air Force photo

This article by Jared Keller originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.

Nothing makes a celebration like bubbles -- sort of.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force welcomed its first operational F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at the country's Leeuwarden Air Base on Thursday, but instead of the traditional water cannon salute, two E-ONE fire trucks opted to douse the hyper-expensive aircraft with firefighting foam.

The War Zone, which first spotted the strange welcome, notes that the official Dutch air force release makes no mention of any sort of mistake. Indeed, the official photos show 323 Test & Evaluation Squadron pilot Ian Knight exiting the aircraft while it's still dripping with suds.

So what happened? According to Reddit user krijgnog5eurovanje, the Leeuwarden AB fire department "was on standby for the water salute when they were called to an actual emergency with an F-16. ... When they returned for the water salute, they forgot to switch from 'foam' to 'water.'"

It's unclear what F-16 emergency took place at Leeuwarden AB at the same time as this ceremony, if any. But ironically, the F-16 was apparently on everyone's mind as the new F-35A rolled up at Leeuwarden AB on Thursday: Dutch State Secretary for Defense Barbara Visser made a direct comparison in her remarks welcoming the fifth-generation airframe to her country's arsenal.

"A little over 40 years ago, the first Dutch F-16 was welcomed here. It was called 'the aircraft of the future,'" Visser said. "While the F-16 used a computer-controlled operating system for the first time, computers and software play such a major role with the F-35 that it is sometimes called a flying laptop. That means a huge change in our work. "

Visser may not show it, but the Royal Netherlands Air Force is extremely excited about its new jet. Just take it from Lt. Col Laurens-Jan 'Sjoak' Vijge, who described his first flight simply: "Holy crap!"

"For a moment I feel that teenager on a very cool skateboard in Florida," Vijge said in the release. "This device goes like a rocket."

Translation: We celebrated the new F-35 with a trip to the champagne room. 

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