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F-16s of the no 312 Squadron; Volkel, July 23, 2020

Bonzo's Falcons from Volkel; Text, Videos & Photograph's by Alex van Noye

One of the F-16 squadrons at Volkel Air Base is the no 312 Squadron. 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 and will switch in the upcoming years to the F-35A Lightning II. Leeuwarden is currently in the transition to the F-35A Lightning II and Volkel will also exchange the F-16 Fighting Falcon for this new type in the coming years. Until then, the F-16s will still be responsible for the daily defense of Dutch airspace. The Fighting Falcon is still going strong !!!

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