Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)
Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu)
The Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu - Royal Netherlands Air Force) is a small yet modern air arm. Because the Netherlands is a member of both NATO and the United Nations important are international joint operations, flexibility, NATO compatibility and mobility to deploy anywhere in the world. Other keywords in the Dutch air force are teamwork, professionalism, technology, operational deployability, and joint operations between the services (air force, army, navy).
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) main mission is providing AIR POWER where and when the Dutch government requires it. The following tasks or missions can be distinguished:
- Defense - defend both Dutch and allied air space.
- Peace keeping - maintain the peace.
- Peace enforcing - restore the peace.
- Civil support - support civilian authorities.
- Humanitarian aid - support the humitarian aid mission.
For the task of defense the RNLAF operates the F-16 fighter. Air defense systems include the Patriot missile system and Stinger. Dutch airspace is guarded by the radar control stations at New Milligen. The station also covers a large part of Western Europe. The air force also deploys personnel onboard the NATO E-3 AWACS aircraft. KDC-10 tankers not only support the RNLAF F-16 operations, but also regularly refuel fighters of United States and other allies.
Examples of the peace keeping and peace enforcing missions are the operations over Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Patriot missiles were deployed in 1991 to protect Israel from SCUD attacks. Also in the recent Gulf War patriots deployed to Turkey. F-16 were deployed for close air support and combat air patrols. Dutch AH-64 Apaches were imbedded with the American Cavalry for operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Supporting UN and SFOR troops detachments of Cougar or Chinook helicopters were send to Macedonia and Chinooks were deployed to Iraq in 2004. Six F-16 fighters have been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom since 2002, as well as AH-64D Apaches and either Chinook or Cougar helicopters have been deployed since 2004.
For civilian support personnel and equipment are available. The AB-412 search and rescue helicopters are on stand-by to react to emergencies in the northwest of the country. For example ships that are in trouble or civilians on the islands that need transport to a hospital. The AH-64 Apache has been deployed in search of escaped criminals. The F-16 has been used for photo reconnaissance to locate burried corpses for a murder investigation. Most recently, the F-16 was sent to Aruba to search for the body of the missing US teenager Nathalie Holloway.
C-130 Hercules and Fokker transport planes have been sent around the world to provide humitarian aid where needed on many occassions. Examples are the food crises in Rwanda 1995, floodings around the world, and the earthquake in Iran. Cougar helicopters have also assisted with forest fires in Portugal and more recently Greece. Of course the KDC-10 have been heavily used to provide tanker support for operations, as well as transport of troops, supplies and equipment to Afghanistan. The C-130 Hercules aircraft also fly regularly to Afghanistan, as well as intra theatre supply missions.
Although the RNLAF has been kept fairly busy ever since the end of the Cold War, the last few years have certainly been the busiest and most demanding. Although it is not expressed as the same level as in the US and UK, there are more and more signs that the current operational commitments are taking its toll on the air force's equipment and people.
In the coming years, the RNLAF will take delivery of two additional C-130H transport aircraft, additional CH-47F Chinook helicopters and beyond 2012 start replacing the F-16 with the F-35 Lightning II, better known as the Joint Strike Fighter. Although no formal decision has been made yet, it seems almost certain that the F-35 will ultimately be ordered, with the Netherlands' involvement in the JSF program as Level II partner.
F-16A MLU fighter
C-130H Hercules transport
CH-47D Chinook transport helicopter
AB-412 'Tweety' for Search and Rescue