With a special event on 11 November 2023 and a night shoot the evening before, the National Military Museum (NMM) in Soesterberg, Netherlands, celebrated the recent introduction of a unique F-16 into its collection. This one-of-a-kind F-16B J-066 is also known as the “Orange Jumper” which operated as test aircraft for the Royal Netherlands Air Force as well as many European and US Air Forces.
Unlike earlier editions of the NMM Night Shoot, this time only one aircraft took the stage and was placed on the lit tarmac next to the museum which was build on the former Soesterberg Air Base. Although the weather wasn’t great it was still a good opportunity to see this unique aircraft in this unique setting.
After its last test program in April 2023, Orange Jumper was retired from active duty as the test aircraft for the RNLAF. Fokker build F-16 B model J-066 was delivered in 1986 to 313 squadron at Twente AB. After that it flew with most RNLAF F-16 squadrons before being converted into a test aircraft at Woensdrecht in August 1998.
The aircraft was fitted with additional test equipment, sensors and additional wiring. The aircraft got its name after the orange wires and jumpers that hold the wires in place. The rear cockpit was also modified so it could fit additional control panels. The biggest visual change was the big red-white pitot tube fitted on the nose. Also photographic markings were applied to the right wing for test firing of missiles.
What makes this F-16 unique is that it used an open architecture. This way various sensors and equipment could be plugged in which were needed for a specific test. Unlike the modification of a single aircraft for a test, like done in the US, this aircraft could be refitted without any modifications to the inner wiring. This was so unique that many European countries operating the F-16 as well as the USAF and F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin used the aircraft for testing programs. It was used for testing the MLU modification (F-16 Mid Life Update) and IFF mode 5 modification (Identify Friend-or-Foe).
Last project it was involved in was the Fighter Aircraft Robust Power Management (FARPM) project. This entailed the development of a model determining the heat and stress on the structure of modern fighter jets like the F-35.
The Orange Jumper is now on display at the open-in-new National Military Museum (NMM) in Soesterberg, Netherlands.