The US-built F-16 jets roar over the village of Marsum three times per day
Translated by Thomas Ansell
Residents in the villages around the Dutch airforce’s Leeuwarden Airbase have experienced significantly more roaring jet engines than usual in the last few weeks, reports the Omrop Fryslân. The base is home to a number of 20-million euro warplanes, and they have been taking off and landing three times per day instead of the usual twice daily. Geert Verf, of Dorpsbelang Marsum (the village’s residents group) says: “and it’s happening now during summer and in the evening, which is new”.
The fighter jets have previously flown during the evening, but never in the summer, says Verf. “Normally they only fly in the evenings between October and April, but now it’s in the evenings and you can really feel it in the village. The intensity of plane movements in the evenings is a result of the Airbase’s Quick Reaction Alert function, which will be further broadened out in September”, he says.
QRA is a scheme under which any plane without a recognised flight path, or that doesn’t identify itself and goes into Benelux airspace, is intercepted by fighter jets. Every three months the QRA role switches to another air-base, which could be the Volkel Airbase in North-Brabant, one in Belgium, or Leeuwarden. QRA is a 24-hour per day operation, “and pilots have to practice taking off and landing during sunset or darkness”, says Verf.
This is the last time that the QRA will be completed with F-16 jets. They are shortly to be replaced by the ludicrously expensive and completely over-powered F-35 warplane, which costs about 100 million euros per unit. The total number of F-35’s that the Dutch airforce has purchased is 46. At full speed, an F-35 can cross the entire airspace of the Netherlands in under 3 minutes. The planes were conceived in an earlier time of defence thinking- where countries often needed to respond to state actors- and have significantly less use in the modern world of non-state security threats.
It’s not just Marsum that’s being affected either. “We’ve certainly noticed, and have experience much more noise than usual”, says Peter Tange of Dorpsbelang Dronryp.
The head of Leeuwarden airbase, Henk Doorten, will meet with the Marsum village group to discuss the airbase’s local responsibilities in the near future.