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The F-16 squadron at Volkel; Volkel, September 2, 2000

The Dutch F-16 Squadrons, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Volkel Air Base is nowadays the largest F-16 airbase of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. At Volkel are three operational squadrons and a test unit based. The operational squadrons, are; the 306 Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, the 311 Squadron and the 312 Squadron. The Test-Group KLu will soon leave to Leeuwarden.

The Test Group F-16 (TG-KLu) is not an operational squadron in the real sense of the word. All squadrons within the Royal Netherlands Air Force have the task of executing test missions with F-16s. However, the TG-KLu team at Volkel became larger and at some point it had a designated test F-16. This aircraft was used to perform tests which the USAF did not perform or in a different environment. In 1984, the first F-16A (J-646) was equipped with special wiring for this test missions. The aircraft was called "Orange Jumper" because of the orange which was used for the additional wiring. This color was chosen to prevent the test wiring and the regular F-16 wiring being changed swapped by accidence. Due to the extensive tests which had to be performed on the F-16, an F-16B (J-653) was also modified with test wiring. The first real integration test performed within the group was the testing of the AGM-65D Maverick. This missile was extensively tested in the period 1985-1986 at Volkel. At that time it was decided that the usability of the weapons was too low. To continue testing after the introduction of the MLU F-16s, all previously converted aircraft were brought back to normal operational F-16s. The F-16BM (J-066) was converted with the orange test equipment. The aircraft therefore also bears an orange kangaroo on the tail to show its current role as "Orange Jumper".

The 306 Squadron is the only photo reconnaissance squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. No other tactical squadron has been equipped with aircraft types such as the F-84E, F-84G, RT-33 and RF-84F in the first years of the unit's existence. The 306 Photo Reconnaissance Squadron was founded at Volkel Air Base on September 17, 1954. The first weeks of the unit were spent on the English airbase RAF G├╝tersloh. On November 8, 1954, the squadron moved to RAF Laarbruch in Germany. After a stay of 3 years at the Laarbruch Air Base, the 306 Squadron was moved to the Deelen Air Base at the end of 1957. From 1964 until 1969 Twenthe Air

Base was the home base, where the 306 squadron was the only Dutch squadron equipped with the RF-104G Starfigther. The RF-104G was the special recce version of the F-104G. The aircraft originally had only three built-in daylight cameras. Later, the Starfighter also received the Orpheuspod under the fuselage with which the range of tasks was drastically expanded. In 1969, the squadron moved to its current location Volkel Air Base. The first F-16 for the 306 Squadron arrived at Volkel on February 18, 1983. Because of the special reconnaissance task of the unit, the F-16s of the 306 squadron were adapted to also carry the Orpheuspod like the Starfighter did. In 1997, it was decided to use the MARS pod (Medium Altitude Reconnaissance System). Only four of these pods were bought in the end. With the arrival of the MLU F-16, such a pod was no longer necessary, because all F-16s were equipped with LANTIRN. The squadron spell of the 306 Squadron is "Videre Vincere Est" which is translated as "To See is to Concur".

The second unit which is stationed at Volkel airbase is the no 311 Squadron. The 311 Squadron at Volkel was officially established on April 1, 1950. The no 311 Squadron became the first active squadron which was founded at Volkel on May 1, 1951. The unit flew in its first years with the F-84E Thunderjet. The tasks of the no 311 Squadron were at that moment, air defense, ground attack and close air support. The unit was equipped with the F-84F Thunderstreak from 1955 onwards. From 1960, the no 311 Squadron, together with the no 312 Squadron, was given a new task. This task was a strategic task. The aircraft of the no 311 Squadron were used in the doom scenario for a nuclear attack on the east. Until this day, the Dutch government denies the presence of nuclear weapons at Volkel. The no 311 Squadron was the first squadron at Volkel airbase to receive the F-104G Starfighter. The Starfighter arrived at Volkel Air Base in 1965. In total, the unit would fly 17 years with this type. The Starfighter was replaced in 1982 by the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Until nowadays the unit flies with this type. The emblem of the unit consists of a blue circle with an image of a hunting eagle. The eagle in the emblem of the 311 Squadron symbolizes the determination and speed in carrying out her duties. The text "Ut Aquila Preadans" means; "Like an Eagle Pours on its Prey". In the 1990s, the no 311 Squadron was deployed several times to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

On December 1, 1951, the 312 squadron was established and the new unit initially flew with the F-84E Thunderjet. At the end of 1952, these aircraft were again replaced by the F-84G Thunderjet. The 312 Squadron, like its sister unit, belonged at that moment to the Tactical Air Force Command of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The nickname of the 312 Squadron is "Bonzo" and comes from the name of the dog of the first commander of the 1st Tactical Fighter Group Major Flinterman in 1952. A few years later, in 1956, the Thunderjets were replaced by the F-84F Thunderstreak for this tactical role. At first the Thunderstreaks were delivered unpainted, but from 1960 all operational aircraft had to be provided with camouflage colors. In 1965, the 312 Squadron switched to the first supersonic jet fighter of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, namely the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter. They continued to fly with the Starfighter at Volkel until 1984. The 312 Squadron was the last Starfighter unit to switch to the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The 312 Squadron, together with his sister squadron, is responsible for the strategic role. Despite being a public secret, it is generally assumed that tactical nuclear weapons of type B-61 are stored at Volkel. These weapons were part of the NATO deterrent during the Cold War. This is still the backbone of the alliance strategy to this day. Today, the Bonzo squadron is fully operational on the F-16 MLU.




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