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Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium begin joint air policing - by Nicholas Fiorenza

 Two Belgian Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter aircraft began the joint air policing of the airspace of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux) on 1 January.

The Belgian fighters will be on 15-minute quick reaction alert (QRA) for the first four months of 2017, after which two Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16s will take over.

The arrangement was agreed by the Benelux in March 2015. Until the end of 2016, two Belgian F-16s were on QRA for Belgium and Luxembourg and two Dutch F-16s for the Netherlands.

Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput described the arrangement as "ground breaking". Similarly, his Dutch counterpart, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, called it a "milestone", adding, "The pilots and fighter aircraft we thereby free up can be deployed elsewhere, for example in the UN, EU or whatever other context." The agreement will also allow more flight training, Vandeput pointed out.

Vandeput said no other countries trust each other to deal with air threats within each other's' borders. The authorities of the country over which an air threat emerges can now give instructions to the fighters on QRA, whether Belgian or Dutch. The Belgian defence minister would do so through the control and reporting centre in Glons, Belgium, while the Dutch minister for security and justice would do the same through the air operations control station in Nieuw Milligen, the Netherlands. The defence minister of Luxembourg is the responsible authority of the Grand Duchy.

The technical agreement on Benelux air policing was signed on 21 December 2016 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, by the commander of the Belgian Air Component, Major General Frederik Vansina, his RNLAF counterpart, Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt, and Luxembourg's ambassador to the Netherlands, Pierre-Louis Lorenz.The two Belgian F-16s currently on QRA are bas

Read more: Netherlands and Belgium begin joint air policing | IHS Jane's 360

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