March 31, 2024

Dutch F-35s to take over QRA missions from F-16s – AeroTime


On March 29, 2024, two Dutch F-35 fighter jets will take over the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) mission from F-16 fighter jets, and the skies over Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are now under the surveillance of two Dutch F-35 fighter jets.

In QRA, two fighter jets are on standby at all times, ready to launch within minutes to intercept unidentified aircraft. Dutch F-16 fighter jets have been flying QRA missions since 1981. The Netherlands and Belgium rotate responsibility for the mission every few months, with Belgium taking over again on May 9, 2024.

Dutch F-35s have now assumed full QRA responsibilities, marking an important step towards the phased retirement of the F-16s. The Royal Netherlands Air Force is currently in the process of phasing out its F-16A fighter jets and replacing them with 52 F-35A stealth fighters. The final “scramble” of the F-16s took place on March 28, 2024 at Volkel Air Base.

For pilots, however, the transition to exclusively using the F-35 will mean minimal changes to operational readiness.

“The situation remains the same,” said the squadron's vice operations chief, Maj. Nick Schneider, “The F-35 makes things easier because, first and foremost, it is a more modern platform. The aircraft can fly longer and has better sensors. The F-35 sends the right signals to the enemy.”

Air Operations Control in Nieuwmligen, Netherlands, coordinates QRA activities and quickly alerts aircraft to intercept unresponsive or unidentified intruders. The F-35s are based at Leeuwarden and Volkel Air Bases in the Netherlands.

In Belgium, the Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) in Beauvechamps oversees QRA activities, with Belgian fighters based in Kleine-Brögel and Florennes.


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