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Fireflies of the Dutch East The Marineluchtvaartdienst - Naval Air Service - was officially founded on August 18, 1917 when she became an independent part of the Royal Dutch Navy. The motto: 'Give the fleet her own wings'. The MLD had received her first airplane in July 1914, a new Farman HF-22. This biplane with registration MA-1 was used for training navy pilots at Soesterberg airforce base.

The number of aircraft grew rapidly during the First World War. Several German and British seaplanes made forced landing in the Netherlands (neutral during this war), were captured and put into service. Therefor the first naval air base was the seaplane base at Schellingwoude near Amsterdam. And also the second and third were seaplane bases: De Mok (on the island of Texel) and Veere (in the province of Zeeland). Airstation De Kooy was the next in October 1917. From then on the MLD started operations in the Dutch Indies (now Indonesia).

During the German invasion in May 1940, the MLD did little to counter the attackers. Still a lot of crews managed to escape to England with their Fokker seaplanes. These Fokkers served only for a short time, but the crews did play an important role during the war.

On June 1st, 1940 the famous Dutch 320 Squadron was established at Pembroke Dock in Wales (United Kingdom). The squadron started flying their own Fokker T-VIII Ws but these were soon replaced by Hudsons and later by B-25 Mitchells. The sister squadron 321 was established 5 days later at the same airbase, but moved to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) soon and received Catalinas and later B-24 Liberators. In June 1943 the Dutch 860 Squadron was established in Scotland and operated Swordfish biplanes from aircraft carriers.

After the Second World War ended, De Kooy was repaired and Valkenburg was put into service. Thanks to the acquisition of the aircraft carrier Karel Doorman, the MLD grew into a large organization with an enormous fleet. For instance, the MLD operated 95 Fireflys, 47 Seafurys, 78 Avengers, 22 Seahawks en 45 Trackers.

In 1951 the MLD received her first helicopter, a Sikorsky S-51. During the floodings of the southwestern part of the Netherlands in Februari 1953, this little machine proved how valuable helicopters are. The Lockheed Neptune proved a very succesul aircraft. Two version of the SP-2 were used. Of the first version, the P2V-5 (SP-2E) 12 served from 1954 until 1960. The first of 19 SP-2H's were put into service in 1963, and fought against the Indonesian invaders in the last Dutch colony in the 'East'. One Neptune even shot down an intruding Indonesian C-47 with its massive guns in the nose section.

The aircraft carrier Karel Doorman was sold to Argentina in 1968. To compensate for this loss, the MLD received nine Breguet Br1150 Atlantics that were based at Valkenburg and flown by 321 squadron. The Neptunes of 320 squadron were replaced by 13 Lockheed Orions in 1982. Only two years later the Atlantics were sold back to France prematurely after three had ditched due to corrosion problems..

Airstation De Kooy became a helicopter base in the 1970s with helicopters like the Agusta Bell 204B for SAR and the Westland Wasp and Westland Lynx for on board the frigattes. The Lynx is the only machine that is still flown by the Dutch Navy, a sad remainder of a once enormous, proud fleet. This helicopter will be replaced by the NH-90 in the near future, but they will be used by the Dutch Royal Air Force. The MLD will cease to exist. Valkenburg was closed in 2006.

Sea Hawk
SP-2H Neptune Neptune landing on runway 24, 1980
SP-13A At;antic
SH-14D Lynx P-3C Orion
SH-14D Lynx NH90