As of 1st January 2017, a new arrangement for NATO Air Policing has started for the airspace of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg (Benelux). The Belgian Air Component and the Royal Netherlands Air Force will take four-month turns to ensure that Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) fighter jets are available at all times to be launched under NATO control.
The Ministers of Defence of Belgium and the Netherlands officially announced this new way of executing the peacetime mission of Air Policing in March 2015. On 21st December, the technical arrangement (TA) was signed by the Dutch Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, the Belgian Commander of the Air Component and the Ambassador of Luxembourg.
For the first four months of 2017, Belgian F-16s will provide the first rotation to conduct integrated Air Policing and hand over to the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s for the second four months. The two air forces will subsequently rotate this mission.
The arrangements coordinated among the three Allies cover a common area of interest, the airspace of Benelux, and include provision for border-crossing activities of aircraft assigned to NATO Air Policing.
This rotational integrated Air Policing arrangement makes it possible to achieve synergies that can be used to better sustain upcoming tasks for both Allied air forces. NATO cites the arrangement as another example of Smart Defence – pooling and sharing military capabilities among Allied Nations. Such cooperation is seen as a way to helps generate modern defence capabilities in a more cost-efficient, effective and coherent manner.
In the past Belgian fighter aircraft provided NATO Air Policing cover for Belgium and Luxemburg while Netherlands jets covered their own airspace; they were controlled by NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, part of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System. This command and control concept will not change.
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 preserve the integrity of NATO airspace.