Search our content

Home  /  Newsroom  /  2024  /  Netherlands replace F-16 with F-35 in Benelux Air Policing

Mar 30 2024

Netherlands replace F-16 with F-35 in Benelux Air Policing

RAMSTEIN, Germany - The Royal Netherlands Air removes their F-16s from BENELUX Air Policing and will now operate their fifth generation F-35s to protect the airspace over Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. 

The conditions remain the same. Above all, the F-35 is more modern platform, which makes things easier, it can fly longer, has better sensors and sends the right signal

Since 1981, Netherlands F-16 fighter planes have been permanently ready for Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties. These are integrated into NATO's Air Policing arrangement controlled by the Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany. That era has come to an on March 29, 2024 and the responsibility for the surveillance of the airspace of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg has been in the hands of two Netherlands F-35s..

A pilot rushes to his F-16 - the Royal Netherlands Air Force jet has flown its last mission under BENELUX Air Policing. Archive photo by Royal Netherlands Air Force.

After first trials in January, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will effective immediately employ only the F-35 for safeguarding the skies over the BENELUX countries under NATO Air Policing. Archive photo by Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Two fighter aircraft are permanently available for QRA missions. Due to the short warning time, they can take off within minutes and intercept any unidentified aircraft. The Netherlands and Belgium alternatingly ensure jets are availble for BENELUX Air Policing - on May 9 Belgian will again take over the mission.

Until then, Netherlands F-35s will ensure safety and integrity over the three Nations. Changes for the pilots will be minimal now that the 24/7 enduring mission is performed by F-35s. They still have to be ready in the same way. “The conditions remain the same,” says Major Nick, the squadron's deputy chief of operations. “The F-35 is above all a more modern platform, which makes things easier. The aircraft can fly longer and has better sensors - and it sends the right signal,” he added.

In the Netherlands, the Air Operations Control Station in Nieuw Milligen has control over the QRA. When an aircraft pilot has no radio contact with Civilian Air Traffic Control, NATO Air Policing arrangements kick in and the QRA is alerted to intercept that aircraft. The F-35s are stationed at the air bases at Leeuwarden and Volkel. Responding adequately to preserve the integrity and safety of the BENELUX airspace is the core tasks of the air force.

In Belgium, the QRA is deployed under the responsibility of the Control and Reporting Center (CRC) in Beauvechain. Air combat control within Europe works closely together when unidentified aircraft fly into the airspace of a neighboring country. This makes it possible to respond to a possible threat in a timely manner.

Various Allies are integrating their F-35 into NATO's standing Air Policing missions e.g. in Norway, over Iceland. During operational deployments under NATO enhanced Air Policing, the Royal Netherlands Air Force has flown their F-35s in Poland in 2023 and Bulgaria in 2022

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office based on input provided by the Royal Netherlands Air Force

Search our content:


HQ Allied Air Command
Flugplatz Ramstein
66877 Ramstein-Miesenbach

Media Operations

Public Affairs Office
Building/Gebäude 313
66877 Ramstein-Miesenbach