On Wednesday 17 August, a pair of F-16s from Leeuwarden Air Base intercepted two Russian aircraft of the type Tu-95 Bear just outside Dutch airspace. The two bombers were flying there without identifying themselves. Dutch fighter aircraft had already taken off for similar reasons involving the Russians on three previous occasions this year.
The Dutch F-16s were ordered to fly to the Bears by the air combat controllers of the Nieuw Milligen Air Operations Control Station. Before this, Danish aircraft had been keeping an eye on the Russians. The fighter aircraft followed the Bears until they headed towards British airspace. The Royal Air Force Quick Reaction Alert took over from there.
Quick Reaction Alert
For the defence of the airspace over the Netherlands, F-16s are on standby for the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) task, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If an unidentified aircraft is reported in Dutch airspace, the F-16s are in the air within a few minutes to intercept the intruder. The QRA task is carried out alternately by Volkel and Leeuwarden air bases.
Orders for intercepting an aircraft are issued by NATO and sent to the Nieuw Milligen Air Operations Control Station. This military air traffic control and air combat control centre then alerts the F-16s on permanent standby and "talks" them to their objective.
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