The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has handed over the responsibility of guarding the Belgian, Netherlands and Luxembourg (BENELUX) airspace to its southern neighbour Belgium.

With the transfer of responsibility, the Belgian Air Force will now provide its F-16 fighter jets to continue surveillance duties as the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) fighter aircraft.

The two countries will take up this surveillance duty alternatively for several months at a time. At least two fighter jets are constantly available on standby for this task.

According to the RNLAF, the forces need to ensure the permanent availability of a minimum of two fighter jets due to the short warning time.

The jets are required to take off within minutes to intercept any unidentified aircraft tracked in the BENELUX airspace.

As part of the latest deployment, the Belgian F-16 jets will be present at two air bases for the next few months. The bases include Kleine-Brogel in the north of Belgium, and Florennes in the south of the country.

The operations undertaken by the Belgian aircraft will be controlled by the Control and Reporting Centre in Beauvechain, Belgium.

This centre is responsible for sending alerts to the deployed aircraft if an unidentified aircraft enters the BENELUX airspace without prior permission.

However, the Dutch fighters were controlled by another centre in Nieuw Milligen, called Air Operations Control Station.

The Dutch forces assumed the QRA tasks last September and were responsible for conducting this mission until 12 January.

During their deployment, the RNLAF’s F-16 fighter pilots from the Volkel Air Base in North Brabant, Netherlands.

The BENELUX agreement to carry out this surveillance mission in the combined airspace was finalised in 2015.

However, the countries started performing the associated air policing tasks in 2017.