The Belgian Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets will take over the mission of Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) in Benelux airspace from its Dutch colleagues on May 14.
Since January 1, 2017, Belgium and the Netherlands have alternately monitored the airspace of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (BeNeLux). The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has been conducting this mission for the past eight months.
One of the tasks of the Belgian Air Force is to respond adequately to violations of the common airspace of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. To this end, two F-16s are ready to take off 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in one of the four F-16 bases in the two countries. From May 14th, these planes are stationed at the airbase of Florennes.
The mission is being conducted for aviation safety and to prevent any unwarranted intrusion into the Benelux airspace.
Radar surveillance of airspace remains an autonomous responsibility of the two nations. In Belgium, this is a mission of the Control and Reporting Center (CRC). For now, it is still located in Glons, but it will soon be transferred to a new center in Beauvechain. This air surveillance center is responsible for the Belgian-Luxembourg sector of NATO airspace. A similar center in Nieuw-Milligen near Apeldoorn watches over the Dutch sector. The F-16s in charge of the QRA mission have a deployment zone that covers the entire area of responsibility of the BeNeLux.
Depending on the location of the violation of the airspace, one of the two centers will scramble the F-16s from QRA in order to find out the intentions of the civil or military planes which represent a threat. Pilots can take off in minutes and make an interception. Fighter planes are guided by radar centers to the suspect aircraft. Aircraft conducting the QRA mission are allowed to go supersonic to carry out the mission.
In 2018, Belgian F-16s from Florennes Air Base intercepted a Russian supersonic nuclear bomber with no known flight plan over the North Sea, north of the Wadden Islands. The instructions for the Belgian planes came from the Dutch aerial surveillance center of Nieuw-Milligen.