Deployable Air Task Force


The Deployable Air Task Force (DATF) agreement was signed on September 25, 1996 between the air forces of the Netherlands and Belgium and the Luxembourg Army. It emanated from the desire to save deployment costs without affecting military fighting power. Through the joint Planning Cell the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Belgian Air Force try to create the proper conditions to realize this intention. The agreement not only accounts for deployment to crisis areas but also for joint exercises in order to prepare for deployments.

International cooperation

Close cooperation exists between the naval forces of the Netherlands and Belgium. A substantial part of the Belgian Navy comes under the command of the (former) Commander Dutch Naval Forces. Unlike the cooperation between the naval forces cooperation within the Deployable Air Task Force will be based on equality.

The different national forces retain the capability to conduct their national military task and the political aims pursued.

DATF Planning Cell

The Planning Cell was activated in February 1996 and will first reside in The Hague. After 3 years it will move to Brussels, for an equal amount of time. One of the Planning Cell's main tasks is the planning of all kinds of situations and conditions that may occur. In order to guarantee maximum flexibility, it is agreed that all type of military equipment and weapons systems can be used for DATF purposes. In case of the use fighter aircraft, it is agreed that both countries will supply aircraft.

DATF in effect

Besides cooperation on low level flying for the F-16 and close cooperation during actions in Former Yugoslavia from Villafranca (Italy), cooperation also exists during Red Flag exercises, during which detachments from both countries fall under one commander.

Cooperation under DATF offers the possibility to maintain the current military capabilities of both air forces in a financially responsible way. Other European countries are interested in cooperative ventures like DATF.

NATO has always been a catalyst for international cooperative ventures. In the past, this was mainly aimed at system interoperability and commonality and standardization in order to increase efficiency. An example for guided weapons are the cooperation for the Nike and Hawk guided weapons systems, and for aircraft the squadron rotations and cross servicing training.

In DATF this form of cooperation was extended. It involves Command and Control, air transportation, logistics, control of airspace, and the actual execution of operations, like Operation Joint Endeavour.

Joint Forge

During Operation Joint Forge the Dutch and the Belgians worked side-by-side to staff operating rooms, intelligence cell, maintenance shops, cook house, security patrols, bomb dump, and flight line. The only area not shared is the photo reconnaissance interpretation cell, since the Belgians did not bring reconnaissance aircraft. The Dutch and Belgian pilots, however, still fly aircraft only from their respective air forces. Cooperation is simplified because of similarity in aircraft type, both air forces operate the F-16A/B Block-15 (MLU) aircraft. The differences between aircraft and weapons are minor: radar warning systems (ALR-69 vs. Carapace), reconnaissance pods, and weapons (Sidewinder types and bomb fuses).

Other cooperative ventures

Other agreements with NATO partners involve cooperation on air transport and aerial refueling to increase efficiency.

Agreement Country Commenced
Training crews C-130H-30 Belgium 1 January 1993 (ended 1 January 1996)
Air transport / Aerial refueling Belgium 14 August 1994
Air transport / Aerial refueling Norway 14 August 1994
Air transport Germany 1 December 1995
Air transport Goosebay,Canada Germany 1 January 1993
Decisive Endeavour Belgium 11 Oct 1996
Air Transport (incl. Goosebay) United Kingdom 9 June 1997

Training for Cougar crews and maintenance personnel (300 Squadron) involves cooperation with Norway, France, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Other Memoranda Of Understandings may be signed in future with the United States concerning air transport.

Source: RNLAF, De Vliegende Hollander, Lockheed Martin, NATO Review.

See: Dutch, Belgian partnership: DATF.

This article was used for the article The Benelux Deployable Air Task Force as published in the Air and Space Power Journal, fall 2003 edition (PDF)