June 24, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - When Air traffic controllers failed to establish radio contact with a Boeing 737 on its way from Bulgaria to Belfast, two F-16s from Leeuwarden AB were scrambled.
RNlAF F-16AM #J-876 from 311 sqn is returning after a QRA-mission with live weaponry on October 5th, 2005. [Photo by Mike Schoenmaker]
The passenger plane was allowed to continue its flight once authorities managed to establish radio contact.
The two RNlAF
F-16s set off a sonic boom between the cities of Heerenveen and Zwolle as they sped through the sound barrier on their way to intercept the plane.
To protect Dutch airspace, F-16s are ready 24/7 for these Quick Reaction Alert missions. When there is a report of an unidentified plane in Dutch airspace, the F-16s can be in the air within minutes to intercept the plane.
These incidents can, for example, involve intercepting planes with which no radio contact can be established or planes that have diverted from their official route.
Neighbouring country Belgium
has also two F-16s permanently at the disposal of NATO
to respond in times of emergencies.
Belgian F-16s intercepted 46 civilian planes last year (2005) and 15 this year (up until 20 May) because no radio contact could be established with the pilots.