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For the First Time, F-35 Fighter Jets of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Protect BENELUX Airspace

For First Time Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Fighter Jets Safeguard BENELUX Airspace
For First Time Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Fighter Jets Safeguard BENELUX Airspace

The Netherlands began flying their F-35 fighters under NATO Air Policing over the BENELUX States on January 25, 2024 in a further step to integrate fifth-generation assets into standing defensive missions.Two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets together with two F-16s are now on standby to ensure the protection of the airspace over Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (BENELUX) ready to perform 24/7 quick reaction alert (interceptor) duties. Jets from the Netherlands and Belgium are taking turns, flying from their national based, to ensure security of the BENELUX airspace. Until May 9, the Netherlands jets will assume this mission with their modern F-35s for the first time.

The F-35 fighters are ready within minutes to launch under NATO Air Policing rules to respond to unidentified aircraft or other situations in the airspace over the three western Allies. The F-35s are flying out of Leeuwarden Air Base, the Netherlands, controlled by the Air Operations Control Station at Nieuw Milligen which is integrated into NATO-wide Air Policing arrangements via the Allied Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany. The Netherlands deployed their F-35s to NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission in Malbork, Poland, in 2023, and the modern jets regularly fly during training with other Allies and Partners.

The Netherlands deployed their F-35s to NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission in Malbork, Poland, in 2023 contributing to deterrence and defence along the Alliance's eastern flank.
The Netherlands deployed their F-35s to NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission in Malbork, Poland, in 2023 contributing to deterrence and defence along the Alliance’s eastern flank. (Photo by Arnaud. Chamberlin)

The Belgian Air Force has provided interceptors for the BENELUX Air Policing before, their F-16 fighter jets are stationed at air bases Kleine-Brogel and Florennes. The mission in Belgium controlled by the Control and Reporting Centre at Beauvechain and also integrated into NATO arrangements. Since January 2017, BENELUX Air Policing for the airspace of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg means that the Belgian Air Component and the Royal Netherlands Air Force are taking turns to ensure QRA (I) fighter jets are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year under NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense System.

NATO Air Policing is a peacetime mission that aims to preserve the security of Alliance airspace. It is a collective task and involves the continuous presence – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – of fighter aircraft and crews, which are ready to react quickly to possible airspace violations. NATO member countries provide the necessary aircraft and assets for the air policing of their own airspace, under SACEUR direction. In 2015, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (known collectively as the Benelux countries) signed an agreement to conduct joint air policing of their territories. Under the agreement, the Belgian and Dutch air forces defend the Benelux airspace on a rotational basis. The joint operations started on 1 January 2017.

For First Time Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Fighter Jets Safeguard BENELUX Airspace
The Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35 Fighter Jets can launch within minutes for an Air Policing sortie and the pilots will receive their orders from the controllers once the jets is airborne. (Photo by Royal Netherlands Air Force)

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