On 19 October, two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s from Leeuwarden Air Base intercepted two Russian “Bear” Tu-95 bombers. The Russians penetrated Dutch airspace without making their identities known.
Air combat controllers of the Nieuw Milligen Air Operations Control Station subsequently ordered the Dutch F-16s to fly towards the Bears. Prior to their entry into Dutch airspace, Danish and British fighter aircraft had kept an eye on the Russian aircraft.
The F-16s intercepted the Russians at the edge of the airspace that the Netherlands is responsible for within NATO. The fighter aircraft continued to shadow the Bears until the Russian aircraft left the area by heading off towards British airspace north-west of Leeuwarden.
There, they were once again met by the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) of the British Royal Air Force who monitored the rest of their journey.
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.
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 alerts the F-16s on permanent standby and “talks” them to their objective.