LEEUWARDEN, The Netherlands - For the coming four months, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 fighter jets will patrol the airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. From May 11 on, Leeuwarden Air Base took over the so-called Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties for Dutch airspace and the skies above its southern neighbours. The Dutch F-16s took over from Belgian F-16s for the first time under a joint arrangement for to provide NATO Air Policing collectively for the BENELUX airspace.
Belgium and Netherlands introduced BENELUX Air Policing on January 1, 2017, when Belgian F-16 fighter jets executed the QRA-task under NATO arrangements. Now that the Netherlands have taken over, fighter jets are launched alternatingly from the airbases at Leeuwarden and Volkel.
While the Control and Reporting Centre at New Milligen is responsible for air surveillance in the Dutch airspace, the Control and Reporting Centre at Glons has this task for Belgian and Luxembourg airspace. Both centres, in turn, operate under the responsibility of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Command at Uedem, Germany, which is responsible for 24/7 monitoring and surveillance of the NATO area north of the Alps.
For the BENELUX area, two fighter aircraft are always kept ready to respond to unclear situations in the airspace. When an alarm is set off, the jets are launched within minutes for example to intercept a plane which presents a potential terrorist risk. The country where the situation occurs will generate the mission.
"Cooperation creates important savings,” said the Netherlands Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. The pilots and fighter aircraft that are not used for Air Policing are available for other deployments elsewhere. From January to the end of April led NATO’s Baltic Air Policing out of Šiauliai Air Base, in Lithuania.
Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Offices based on information from The Dutch MoD