Summer Offensive Soesterberg: Cold War Fighter Jets

Last weekend, 24 & 25 August, the Nationaal Militair Museum (NMM) in Soesterberg held its annual summer event dubbed ‘Zomeroffensief’. Last year’s summer event focused heavily on aircraft. This year, too, many aircraft could be admired along the runway in a static-show format. Among the jet fighters were a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II as well as Lockheed TF-104 Starfighter, which are normally not on display in the museum. In this first post covering the Summer Offensive, I will focus on the museum’s fighter jet collection. In part two, tanks will be the main focus.

The theme of aircraft is extremely fitting for the NMM, as it is literally located on the premises of a former air force base. The base was primarily used by the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu)1. Since the KLu was unable field an air fleet large enough to meet NATO requirements to protect the Dutch airspace it had requested help from the USAF. Although the Americans initially declined, starting from November 1954, the American 32nd Squadron “Soesterberg Wolfhounds2” was stationed at Camp New Amsterdam on the Soesterberg air base. The 32nd Squadron left Camp New Amsterdam in 1994. ​[1]​

F-4E Phantom II

NMM has quite a complete collection of jet fighters that were actually flown from the air base during the cold war. For example, a F-15 Eagle is hanging from the roof of the main exhibition hall and a F-102A-55-CO Delta Dagger together with a F-86F-25-NH Sabre stand on the old runway. For the summer offensive event, another fighter jet joined the line-up on the tarmac: the F-4E Phantom II ​[2]​.

The ‘E’ variant of the Phantom was equipped with an M61 Vulcan gun located directly underneath the cockpit. Interestingly, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) still operates a small fleet of F-4E Phantom fighters3 one which crashed just at the start of this month ​[3]​. These Phantoms were originally acquired by the Shah, but were retained – together with a number of other fighter jets of American make and model – after the Iranian revolution in 1979.

MiG-21

As it happens the natural adversary of the Phantom, the MiG-21, was close by. This iconic Soviet jet was designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich design bureau and was designated “Fishbed” in NATO nomenclature. Many a time Vietnamese MiG-21s would have met their American counterpart. Despite its sleek design and relative lower weight, the MiG was outclasses by the Phantom, which could carry up to eight missiles – significantly more than the two carried by the MiG.

TF-104G Starfighter

This Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter is the third twin-seater version supplied to the Royal Netherlands Air Force for training purposes as is indicated by the mortarboard (academic cap) on the tail ​[4]​. This jet with registration D-5803 has been in service from June 19634 until November 1984 ​[5]​. The ‘G’ variant was an altered version of the Startfighter generally known as “Super Starfighter”. It was based on the F-104C to suit the needs of the West German Luftwaffe and other NATO partners ​[6]​. The Super Starfighter became notorious for its unforgiving flight characteristics ​[7]​.

That’s all the planes for now. In the next post you’ll be able to read more about the armoured vehicles that were present at the event.

  1. [1]
    “Zulu Alert,” NMMagazine, vol. 4, no. 3, Dec. 2018.
  2. [2]
    “Mc Donnell Douglas Phantom II F-4E b/n 67-0275,” Nationaal Militair Museum. [Online]. Available: https://www.nmm.nl/zoeken-in-de-collectie/detail/471977/
  3. [3]
    G. Barison, “IRIAF F-4E Phantom II Crashes Into Persian Gulf. Both Crew Members Eject Safely.,” The Aviation Geek Club. [Online]. Available: https://theaviationgeekclub.com/iriaf-f-4e-phantom-ii-crashes-into-persian-gulf-both-crew-members-eject-safely/
  4. [4]
    “KLu F-104 Starfighter,” International Plastic Modellers’ Society Nederland. [Online]. Available: https://www.ipms.nl/artikelen/nedmil-luchtvaart/vliegtuigen-l/vliegtuigen-l-lockheed-f104/1603-vliegtuigen-l-lockheed-f104-3
  5. [5]
    “ Jachtvliegtuig Lockheed TF-104G ‘Starfighter’ registratienummer D-5803,” Nationaal Militair Museum. [Online]. Available: https://www.nmm.nl/zoeken-in-de-collectie/detail/471522/
  6. [6]
    “F-104 Types,” International F-104 Society. [Online]. Available: http://www.i-f-s.nl/f-104-types/
  7. [7]
    D. Leone , “Why The Luftwaffe Dubbed The Iconic F-104 Starfighter ‘Widow Maker’ ,” The Aviation Geek Club. [Online]. Available: https://theaviationgeekclub.com/heres-luftwaffe-dubbed-iconic-f-104-starfighter-widow-maker/