Koninklijke Luchtmacht
Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)

The Royal Netherlands Air Force numbered approximately 11,000 military personnel and 1,700 civilian employees in 2004. The Air Force has advanced equipment and well trained personnel. Its F-16 fighter aircraft can be deployed in advanced air defence, precision attacks on ground targets and aerial reconnaissance. It deploys transport and fighter aircraft and attack helicopters in the Netherlands and abroad for various purposes, including reconnaissance, attacking ground targets, transporting personnel and equipment, evacuating medical patients and others in need, and rescuing persons in distress.

Its air transport and tanker fleet helps keep the Dutch armed forces tactically and strategically mobile. Two Fokker 60 aircraft are temporarily deployed in the Netherlands Antilles to carry out aerial reconnaissance for the Coast Guard of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba and the Dutch Coast Guard.

Air power, the use of military resources in the air, is now an essential part of all armed forces. Air power can be deployed flexibly, whether it involves air defence, carrying out strategic bombardments, offering air support to ground and naval forces, providing logistic support or transporting people, materiel or humanitarian aid. The flexibility of air power is characterised by its response capacity, range, speed and mobility. This means that air power is ideally suited to deployment in crisis management or peace operations and humanitarian aid missions.

This flexibility is embodied by the various options offered by the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s weapon systems. Fighter aircraft are able to switch immediately from air defence to attack. Fighter aircraft also perform reconnaissance missions. Transport and combat helicopters can respond quickly in order to move troops or offer air support. The combat helicopters also have the flexibility to carry out offensive, defensive and reconnaissance tasks. The various air transport resources can be used to react quickly to a crisis or emergency situation, even at a great distance from the home base. Guided weapons may immediately be switched from an air defence role against aircraft and cruise missiles to defence against tactical ballistic missiles, such as the Scud.

Over the past few years, actual deployment of, for instance, F-16s and Apaches over Afghanistan and of Patriot units to Turkey, the provision of support by Chinooks in Iraq and the execution of innumerable humanitarian transport operations all over the world have demonstrated the advantages of rapid and flexible commitment of air power to peace and humanitarian operations. The Royal Netherlands Air Force is also responsible for search-and-rescue actions to save missing flight crews, but it is more often called into action to transport the sick and injured from the West Frisian Islands off the northern Dutch coast.

The Nieuw Milligen radar station monitors the airspace for any undesirable aircraft and provides air traffic control not only for military aviation, but also for civil aviation in a large part of the Dutch airspace. Lastly, the Royal Netherlands Air Force carries out photo reconnaissance flights for the Ministry of Justice or other government authorities and deploys materiel and personnel in the event of (imminent) disasters or other extraordinary circumstances.

The Air Force can be deployed rapidly anywhere for various purposes. It conducts peace and humanitarian operations in the Netherlands and abroad. It can also take military action, or threaten to do so, in order to maintain stability and the international legal order. The Air Force assists civil authorities, in the Netherlands or abroad, to enforce the law and respond to disasters. And it helps maintain the integrity of the air space and territory of the Netherlands and allied countries.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) published the first version of its Air Power Doctrine (APD) in 1996. The RNLAF relied mainly on the NATO view of the role of air power and the other elements of air forces as well as on the opinions of the main Allies.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) formed a part of the Allied air defense system for Western Europe and the Allied Tactical Air Forces which provide air support to NATO ground forces. The primary mission of the RNLAF is ground attack and strike, with a secondary mission of day, clear-air-mass air defense.

For its part, by the end of the Cold War the RNLAF underwent major modernization programs in its aircraft and air defense systems, such as acquiring and flying the F-16 aircraft as its front line fighter. Upgrading its F-16 warfighting capability, the RNLAF purchased the Operational Capabilities Upgrade (OCU) package for all F- 16 aircraft. OCU improvements include expanded computer capability with future growth potential, a beyond-visual range missile capability, data load capability, low-altitude safety enhancement (combined radar altimeter), and aircraft/radar software update. A comprehensive mid-life upgrade program was also planned for the mid-1990s.

In conjunction with other improvements to the F-16, the RNLAF was seeking to expand its air defense role. Long-range planning, as noted, includes further improvements to the F-16 in the mid-1990s, the addition of an identification system, and procurement of an advanced medium range air-to-air missile. Further, the RNLAF had embarked on a program to upgrade its ground based NATO air defense system with the acquisition of Patriot missile fire units, the first of which became operational in April 1987. The RNLAF planned to acquire additional Patriot fire units for defense of territory and inclusion in NATO's integrated rear area air defense system.

Support and training within the RNLAF are provided through separate Air Logistics and Training Commands. The RNLAF possesses an indigenous depot capability for jet engines and major electronic components, with a limited depot-level airframe capability. Major airframe and system repair capability is provided through private industry in The Netherlands. Supply and distribution are accomplished by the Logistics Command and Training Command as well as all technical and other training by the Training Command.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force materiel which determines the deployment of air power can be divided into four main groups: fighter aircraft, helicopters, air transport and guided weapons. The F-16 fighters were stationed at three air bases: Leeuwarden (where the AB-412 rescue helicopters are also based), Twenthe and Volkel. Twenthe Air Base closed in 2007. The Apache combat helicopters are based at Gilze-Rijen and the Chinook and Cougar helicopters at Soesterberg. The transport fleet is stationed at Eindhoven Air Base and the guided weapons are to be found at De Peel. Defence was hard hit by the austerity measures that Minister Hans Hillen published 08 April 2011. The Royal Air Force reduced the number of F-16s of 87 to 68. The Cougar transport helicopters disappeared and the third DC-10 is not in service. Further, the air force deleted 2 Ground Defense-platoons and took one of the 4 Patriot batteries out of service.

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