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F-16 land at Schiphol for QRA exercise
 
Latest update: January 2016.
 
Quick Reaction Alert

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) maintains its Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) with the Lockheed Martin F-16 from one of its main operating bases Leeuwarden in Northern and Volkel Southern Netherlands. The QRA provides two fully armed F-16s ready to take-off in a few minutes to intercept an unidentified aircraft. Based at Nieuw Milligen the Air Operations Control Station (AOCS) monitors the Dutch airspace and alert the QRA when an aircraft entering this airspace falls to communicate with air traffic control. The QRA task is rotated between both air bases and is available 7 days per week and 365 days a year.
The last two years the QRA operations became more known to the public due to Russian military aircraft approaching NATO airspace. In those cases the aircraft are followed by for instance the QRA from the Royal Air Force and handed over to the RNLAF when approaching the Dutch controlled airspace.

Schiphol alternate landing base for the QRA

On Tuesday January 26 the RNLAF and Schiphol airport held an QRA exercise. The exercise saw two F-16s from 322 squadron based at Leeuwarden land, handled and take-off from Schiphol. By doing so both parties could review processes drawn up in the preceding period. Commander Leeuwarden Air Base Colonel Traas visited his team at Schiphol and explained the purpose of the exercise.

"The exercise is designed to validate the processes of the RNLAF QRA F-16s landing at Schiphol when their own air base is closed due to weather restrictions or other circumstances. Should that be the case the aircraft have to divert to another airbase. During the normal operations hours of air bases that's not a problem but as the QRA can also be active outside these hours we needed an alternate landing base. Schiphol airport was contacted to serve as the preferred alternate site should our F-16s need to divert in the evening, at night or in a weekend. With Schiphol being available we can either save fuel consumption of the aircraft or remain on station for a longer period which would not be the case when the alternate air base is located in another country". Flying to the airport isn't a problem for the aircraft and its crews. The main difference is the fighters make tighter turns then the passenger aircraft so the crews have to adopt to the civilian airport approach rules. After landing communication is important and all parties involved have to be informed. The F-16s will be positioned at a site at the airport". For the exercise the run-up facility at runway 22 / 27 was chosen. "Here they will be handled by the personnel of Schiphol airport. For today's exercise we have brought our own crew-chiefs to handle the aircraft and validate the processes. In case a real QRA should have to land at Schiphol at the moment that decision has been taken the RNLAF dispatches its own crews to assist the colleagues from Schiphol". Based on the experiences of today the documentation will now be reviewed by both Schiphol airport and the our team and where needed adjusted or updated. Then it will be made available to all teams both within the Schiphol and the F-16 squadrons. Therefore it's not needed to repeat this exercise, like on a monthly bases, but should the need arise we can do this again in the future".

QRA training and evaluation exercise

Schiphol airport has five long runways and one short runway available. The runway usage is based on the wind direction and the 'preferred order'. For the exercise the F-16s landed on runway 27 'Buitenveldertbaan'. Normally this runway is in use during strong winds from the East (take-off) or Western (landing) but specially activated to receive both fighters. The F-16s took off from Leeuwarden in the morning to complete a regular mission and then headed towards Schiphol. Air Traffic Control set them up according to the civilian airport approach rules which for the pilots meant they were spaced farther apart then when landing on a military air base. At the end of the runway they were awaited by a follow-me car and as soon as the second F-16 turned from the runway joining his colleague they were guided to the above mentioned parking position were they where marshaled in by the crew-chiefs. They started their work to get the F-16s ready for the afternoon mission.

The author would like to thank the Royal Netherlands Air Force, Commander Leeuwarden Air Base Colonel Traas and his team and Schiphol airport for their support and hospitality.
 
Photogallery
 
 
The first F-16 of 322 squadron on final  to runway 27 at Schiphol IAP followed by its wingman a few minutes later.
     
     
passing the threshold and moments from touchdown  on the Buitenveldertbaan.
     
     
A follow-me car from Schiphol airport
guided the F-16s to their parking spot
passing the KLM aircraft at the gates while the F-16s are taxxing to the run-up area where the will be serviced by the Leeuwarden ground crews.
     
     
The first F-16 enters the run-up area where they were parked. After F-16s were serviced 'static' photo's could be made. Fully serviced and ready for its afternoon mission.
     
     
The 322 squadron batch.
F-16s on QRA duty are fully armed which was not needed to complete the exercise.