The first F-16 for 306 sqn arrived at Volkel AB on February 18th, 1983. Operations with the type started after only a few months, because the unit was still flying the venerable RF-104G Starfighter.
Because of the dedicated reconnaissance task of the unit, it was also to keep using the Oudedelft Orpheus recce pod. This pod needed to be adjusted with the integration of a radar altimeter and was beefed up for the higher G-forces the F-16 would reach.
In spite of these upgrades, in the late eighties, early nineties, it was decided that the Orpheus pod would be phased out in 1993 due to its dwindling age. It was ultimately approved that the pod would soldier on until a replacement could be found. At first the Dutch Air Force preferred the ATARS (Advanced Tactical Air Reconnaissance System) system to be installed on their F-16s, but this project was cancelled by the USAF in 1993, thus condemning the Dutch efforts for a new recce system.
In 1997 the decision was taken to use the so-called MARS (Medium Altitude Reconnaissance System) pod which was also used by the Belgian Air Force. Only 4 examples of these pods where purchased since it would only be a stop-gap until a definitive solution would be available.
RNlAF F-16A block 15 #J-642
from 306 sqn is touching down on the runway at Volkel AB on September 2nd, 2000. [Photo by Erik Frikke]
In 2004 it was finally decided by the Dutch government that the successor of the Orpheus system would be the 'Recce-Lite' system which is developed and manufactured by the Israeli Raphael company. A total of 6 systems is to be acquired at a total cost of around € 35 million. The Recce-Lite system is a digital reconnaissance platform which differs from other platforms in that it is integrated in a pod which can be hung under an intake hardpoint rather than being hung under the center hardpoint. This frees up necessary space to carry a simultaneous load of A/A weapons, A/G weapons, a recce platform, a targeting pod and an ECM device. In this scenario an F-16 can be deployed to fly a reconnaissance mission and destroy the found target immediately with the weapons it also carries, minimizing the time between detection and destruction. This also has the advantage that it minimizes the time that the foe can move targets.
Since 2001 however, 306 sqn lost its dedicated reconnaissance task because all F-16s upgraded with the MLU program can carry recce pods. All the units who have been assigned to the NATO reaction forces have been equipped with recce pods to fulfill this duty when the need arises. Together with the loss of this task, the squadron was tasked with conversion training of all RNlAF F-16 pilots. The unit is now a designated training unit within the Dutch Air Force.
In 2007 the Dutch government signed a contract with the USAF to perform a large part of the F-16 training in the US. This happened once before between December of 1989 and April of 1994 when the Dutch send 8 aircraft (7 A-models and 1 B-model) to be included in the 148th TFTS. This time a total 14 aircraft (9 A-models and 5 B-models) are based at Springfield IAP to perform the training duties. The only difference is that the airframes in the early eighties where included in the 148th TFTS and also received their squadron colors. This time, the 306th sqn is moved entirely and continues flying under its own colors.
Because of the disbandment of the Springfield wing, the F-16 had to be relocated. As in the past, a suitable place was found in Tucson with the 148th FS. Like in the past, the aircraft will be incorporated into the 148th and so the existance of 306 sqn was no longer necessary, causing it to be disbanded in December of 2010 with all F-16s leaving for their new home base in Arizona.
RNlAF F-16AM #J-510
from 306 sqn is parked on the tarmac at Springfield IAP on November 13th, 2007. [Photo by Dirk A. Geerts]