The Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 pilots had been on 24/7 standby to safeguard the BENELUX airspace since January 9, 2020. When executing tactical action, the aircraft operate under control of the Dutch “Bandbox” (Air Operations Control Station Nieuw-Milligen) and Belgian “Efflux” (CRC Glons) Control and Reporting Centres, depending on whether the target is flying in Dutch or Belgian-Luxemburg airspace.
“The Belgian Air Force has now taken over the QRA mission from the Royal Netherlands Air Force for the next four months. The Belgian F-16s will operate alternately from our air bases at Florennes and Kleine-Brogel. Our partnership safeguarding the Benelux skies has proven to be effective,” said Belgian Air Component Commander, Major General Frederik Vansina.
“The Royal Netherlands Air Force QRA consists of two armed F-16 fighter aircraft which are permanently ready for missions to secure the Benelux airspace during their rotation of Air Policing. In the past few years, the F-16s were scrambled multiple times to conduct intercepts on unidentified or unauthorized aircraft in Dutch airspace. The QRA can either be stationed on Leeuwarden Airbase or Volkel Airbase,” said Lieutenant Colonel Yvo Giesselbach, Commanding Officer of CRC Nieuw Milligen.
All units operate under command of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany to deal with airborne threats. In case action has to be taken against civilian aircraft, at a certain point, the operations
revert under the control of National Governmental Authorities. The Royal Netherlands Air Force handed over the Air Policing mission to the Belgian Air Force, whose aircrew will from now on until mid-September 2020 have their F-16 fighter aircraft ready to launch at any moment if necessary to respond to unidentified or unauthorized air traffic.
The special arrangement of the BENELUX Air Policing was launched in January 2017. In late December 2016, the Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, the Belgian Commander of the Air Component and the Ambassador of Luxembourg signed a technical arrangement allowing Belgian F-16 fighter jets to take over the first rotation to conduct integrated Air Policing for the first four months in 2017.
Every year, the Control and Reporting Centres report about twenty incidents in the BENELUX airspace. Since the establishment of the Belgian-Dutch partnership a yearly average of six scrambles and four effective interceptions occurred.
NATO Air Policing is a peacetime mission overseen by Allied Air Command at Ramstein, Germany. Two Allied CAOCs – one at Uedem, Germany and one at Torrejon, Spain – plan, direct, task, coordinate and supervise the launch of fighter aircraft to safeguard and preserve the integrity of NATO airspace.