F-16

Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have signed an agreement to conduct joint air policing of their territories.

Under the agreement, the Belgian and Dutch Air Forces will defend the Benelux airspace on a rotational basis, starting in mid-2016, as reported by IHS Jane’s. It is claimed that the contract will be the first of its kind among the European Union (EU) members.

The two air forces will keep two F-16 Fighting Falcon jets on quick reaction alert (QRA) to protect the airspace of all three signatories against both military threats and renegade aircraft, which is a civil aircraft that is likely to pose a terrorist threat.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel was quoted by EUobserver as saying: "The agreement is a step forward in the intensification of European military cooperation."

Netherlands Prime Minister Marc Rutte said: "We work together to make sure that European security progresses.

"The terrible events of the past months motivate us greatly."

As part of the contract, the Netherlands can order Belgian fighter jets patrolling its airspace to shoot down a renegade aircraft, while Belgium will also have an authority to execute a similar order.

"The agreement is a step forward in the intensification of European military cooperation."

Luxembourg, which lacks an air force, has already ruled out the use of lethal force over its territory.

The agreement must be ratified by the three countries’ parliaments and approved by their executive branches, over the course of the next 12 months, IHS Jane’s reported.

Following ratification and necessary approvals, the signatories will work out details like the length of the rotations of the Belgian and Dutch aircraft on QRA, amongst others.

According to the publication, the agreement follows a letter of intent signed by Belgium and the Netherlands on joint air policing in October 2013.


Image: Netherlands will keep two F-16 fighters on quick reaction alert to protect the Benelux airspace from mid-2016. Photo: courtesy of Master Sgt Andy Dunaway.