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Royal Air Force
Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu)

Organisation 1 | Force Profile and Operational Tasks
KL pers tbv vbpln KLu1LVGCTLCLONAK AFCENT587 Objbewpel [KL]576 Objbewpel [KL]564 Objbewpel [KL]586 Objbewpel [KL]MOCNMNAK SHAPEKMANAK NORTHAG-TWOATAFLSKLSASZLSS    
Unit Location Peace Strength War Strength
Air Force Staff [a] Den Haag ?
Air Force Staff Corps [b] Den Haag ?
Air Force Tactical Command
Zeist ?
Administrative Squadron Zeist
Logistic and Training Command Zeist ?
1 Air Force Signal Group [c] Alphen en Riel (± 120?) ?
Netherlands Administrative Corps SHAPE [d] Casteau (BE) ? ?
Netherlands Administrative Corps AFCENT [d] Brunssum ? ?
Netherlands Administrative Corps NORTHAG/TWOATAF [d] Rheindahlen (GE) ? ?
Air Force Staff School Ypenburg ? ?
Royal Military Academy [e] Breda ? ?
564 Object Security Platoon [Royal Army] [f] 1/4/33 (38)
576 Object Security Platoon [Royal Army] [f] 1/4/33 (38)
Mobilisation Centre Nijmegen [g] (Nijmegen) ?
586 Object Security Platoon [Royal Army] [h] 1/4/33 (38)
587 Object Security Platoon [Royal Army] [h] 1/4/33 (38)
Royal Army personnel for field dressing stations [i] 76/13/- (89)


a. Peacetime organisation. Headed by Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force (Bevelhebber der Luchtstrijdkrachten, BDL) who was also Chief of Staff of the Air Force (Chief of the Air Force Staff) (Chef Luchtmachtstaf, CLS). BDL/CLS and his staff were responsible for the policies concerning (the preparation for) combat operations and for the operational effectiveness of the units and installations of the Royal Air Force. The Royal Air Force's primary combat and combat support units were under operational control of NATO's Commander Second Allied Tactical Air Force (COMTWOATAF) in peace and wartime. Operational control was delegated by Commander Allied Air Forces Central Europe (COMAAFCE), who held operational command. For an optimal span of control BDL/CLS delegated part of his authority and responsibilities to Commander Tactical Air Force and Commander Logistic and Training. The Air Force Staff (Luchtmachtstaf, LS) mainly comprised the Staff Group, the Air Force Staff Cabinet, the Staff Group Legal Affairs and, under the Deputy Chief of Staff, eight divisions grouped under a Subchief Operations (Souschef Operatiën) and a Subchief Plans (Souschef Plannen). 'Operations' comprised four divisions: Operational Control; Intelligence and Security; Flight and Operational Safety; Signals. 'Plans' also comprised four divisions: Plans; Operational Needs; Organisation; Command and Provision of Information. Sub 'Operations' the Head of the Intelligence and Security Division (Afdeling Inlichtingen en Veiligheid) was also Head of the Air Force Intelligence Service (Luchtmacht Inlichtingendienst, LUID) which was part of the Air Force Staff administratively but fell directly under the Minister of Defence. On mobilisation the Air Force Staff, together with staff elements subordinate to the three ministerial directors of the Air Force Board (Luchtmachtraad, LUMARA), would form the Royal Air Force War Staff (Oorlogsstaf Koninklijke Luchtmacht, OS/KLu). In addition to the units shown here, three training detachments (NODs) in the United States, subordinate to Logistic and Training Command in peacetime, would in wartime be placed under the War Staff, as would the Royal Military Constabulary District Royal Air Force in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the Air Force Attaché (Luchtmachtattaché) in Washington DC, who in peacetime probably fell under ministerial authority.2 
b. The Air Force Staff Corps (Korps Luchtmachtstaf, KLS) provided administrative support and service support to the Air Force Staff and other (ministerial and non-ministerial) staff units of the Royal Air Force. Service support included providing accommodation, catering, library, printing and transport services. As such KLS was comparable to the Army Staff Corps Command and the Ministry of Defence Corps Command (Army), see Royal Army, Part I, note d. Part of the Air Force Staff Corps was located at Ypenburg Air Base. The KLS commander was also commander of that air base.3  
c. Operated a listening post at Kamp 'De Kiek' in Alphen-Riel, gathering signals intelligence (SIGINT) through the interception, decoding and analysis of high-frequency (HF) radio traffic from Warsaw Pact countries. Providing early warning of an enemy attack was an important part of this. Personnel worked in shifts. Other tasks were monitoring all Royal Air Force communications to ensure procedures were observed and to improve communications security in general; and to check communication equipment and computers for unintended signal leakage. This task included periodically carrying out 'debugging' sweeps at locations where classified information was processed or discussed. The group reported to the Air Force Intelligence Service (see note a), under whose operational control they fell. In 1973 personnel strength was 123 (77 military and 46 civilians).4
d. See also Royal Army, Part V.
e. See also Royal Army, Part III.
f. Filled by mobilisable personnel from 16 Armoured Infantry Battalion (RIM) after their fourteen to sixteen-month RIM period in that unit had expired, up to eight and a half years prior to mobilisation.5
g. Would be established on mobilisation and most likely disbanded once mobilisation would be completed.
h. To be assigned further after mobilisation.6 Filled by mobilisable personnel from 14 Armoured Infantry Battalion (RIM) after their fourteen to sixteen-month RIM period in that unit had expired, up to eight and a half years prior to mobilisation.5
i. Filled by Royal Army medical reserve officers and reserve sub-officers from the general pool of mobilisable reserves (vrij-indeelbaar bestand) that had fulfilled their active-duty period in relevant functions up to twelve and a half years prior to mobilisation.5 Non-organic grouping of medical detachments for Royal Air Force field dressing stations, to be assigned further after mobilisation. The grouping comprises fourteen detachments referred to as Type A, A1, B, B1, C, D, E or F. These types probably refer to the specific medical qualifications of this personnel. The largest detachment was thirteen men strong, the smallest four men.7 See also Air Force Tactical Command, part I, note a.

Force Profile and Operational Tasks 8

The Royal Air Force was organised to meet national and, especially, NATO peace and wartime requirements. Its operational tasks demanded high combat readiness, short response times and a high degree of operational flexibility. Combat and combat support units were already under NATO operational command in peacetime, and in terms of its main command structure the Royal Air Force's peacetime organisation differed from its wartime organisation only in the realm of logistics and services (see note a above and the notes a sub Air Force Tactical Command and Logistic and Training Command). Likewise the peacetime organisations of combat and combat support units were largely identical to their wartime organisations.9 
In the context of NATO defence the Royal Air Force had the following main operational tasks:
  • Defending NATO airspace against aggression
  • Achieving and maintaining air superiority in the NATO command area
  • Providing tactical support to NATO ground forces and to NATO naval forces in the allocated area of the North Sea and the Channel
  • Controlling and securing air traffic in Netherlands airspace
  • Supporting, supplying and sustaining the Royal Air Force's contribution to NATO defence
For this the Royal Air Force had, in terms of combat units, the following means (nearly all to be found under Air Force Tactical Command):
  • Eight squadrons of fighter-bomber aircraft and one tactical reconnaissance (fighter-bomber) squadron (306 Squadron), each squadron organically equipped with eighteen aircraft (18 'units equipped' or 18 UE)
  • Ten surface-to-air guided missile squadrons based in West Germany
  • Ground-based active air defence units: eight surface-to-air missile equipped Assault Firing Units (AFU) in the Netherlands, twenty-seven radar-autocannon combinations in the Netherlands and four such combinations in West Germany (Short Range Air Defence, SHORAD)
  • One reporting and air defence direction centre with one radar station and one radar post (CRC)
In terms of combat support units:
The nine fighter-bomber squadrons would operate in the following roles:
  • Air defence (AD)
    • In principle all non AD-roled F-16 equipped fighter-bomber squadrons had (contributing to) air defence operations as their secondary task ('defensive counter-air operations', under daylight conditions only, because of the limitations of the available armament)
  • Tactical air reconnaissance (306 Squadron)
  • Conventional offensive operations (under daylight conditions), comprising
    • 'offensive counter air' operations (including ground attack, fighter sweep, combat air patrol, air escort, defence suppression and intercept missions) 
    • 'air interdiction' operations (conducted to destroy, neutralise or delay the enemy's military potential before it could be brought to bear effectively against friendly forces, conducted beyond the operational reach of friendly forces)
    • 'offensive air support' operations (including tactical air reconnaissance, battlefield air interdiction and close air support missions)
    • 'tactical air support for maritime operations'
  • Nuclear missions (311 and 312 Squadron)
    • 'strike'
In 1985 the Royal Air Force's projected peacetime personnel strength for 1987 was 18,646 heads, including 3,343 conscripts (18%) and 2,929 civilian personnel (16%). Mobilisation would add about 35% of reservists: some 6,500 men, bringing wartime strength to approximately 25,000 men.10 Conscripts were in principle employed only where their training required no more than one third of their active-duty service period (which was fourteen months for corporals and soldiers, seventeen months for officers and sub-officers). Consequently conscript personnel was mainly assigned to Air Force Security (infantry) units. The pool of reservists however did not only include mobilisable conscripts but also professional personnel that had served in fixed-term contracts.11
NATO's Allied Command Europe (ACE) Standards demanded that there would be 1.5 crew (usually: pilot) for each combat aircraft assigned to Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Pilot shortages however meant that the Royal Air Force could offer no more than 1.2 pilot per aircraft. After NATO Simple Alert the Royal Air Force would try to bring this ratio up to at least 1.4 by assigning pilots that in peacetime performed non-flying duties on air bases and in staffs and training units
.12 Pilot shortages were caused by budgetary constraints originating in the mid-1970s, inefficient selection methods and the lure of better paying commercial airlines.13

1. Organisation: NL-HaNA 2.13.182, inv. nr. 663, Concept krijgsmachtdeelplan Koninklijke Luchtmacht 1987-1996 d.d. 20 december 1985, 88-89. NIMH 430, inv. nr. 54 (Slagorde KL stand 1 juli 1985), Blad S2. NIMH 723, inv. nr. 75, Organisatie en organisatieschema's m.b.t. de KLu d.d. 1 augustus 1984, 22. Ibid., two undated organisation charts (± 1970-1980). HTK 1983-1984, kamerstuknr. 18169 ondernr. 2 (Defensienota 1984-1993), 114. Object security units: NL-HaNA 2.13.113, inv. nr. 814, Indeling LB/OB-eenheden d.d. 18 februari 1980, Bijlage A. NIMH 430, loc. cit.
2. NL-HaNA 2.13.182, inv. nr. 663, op.cit., 85-86, 88-89. NIMH 430, inv. nr. 54, loc. cit. NIMH 723, inv. nr. 75, Organisatie en organisatieschema's m.b.t. de KLu d.d. 1 augustus 1984, 23. Intelligence and Security Division of the Air Force Staff and Air Force Intelligence Service: Kluiters, De Nederlandse, 225. There was a large overlap between the two, i.e. many personnel worked for both organisations. Kluiters, loc. cit. The 1986-1987 intelligence reports of the LUID are explored in Van Bavel en Pronk, Een goede vlucht.
3. Information kindly provided by Royal Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel R. Dorenbos (Rtd.) (email 21.06.2023). Beeldbank NIMH, obj. nr. 2157_048625. Website VOFE Ypenburg, Calendarium vliegveld Ypenburg, 3.
4. Kluiters, De Nederlandse, 227. Van Loo, Crossing, 135-136. Kwisthout, Van Luisterdienst, 27. Debugging: scanning for hidden eavesdropping devices.
5. NIMH 205A/10, Aflossing van mobilisabele eenheden en -aanvullingen d.d. 11 november 1983. Ibid., d.d. 17 juni 1985.
6. NIMH 430, inv. nr. 54, loc.cit.
7. NIMH 430, inv. nr. 54, Blad S2 en tabellarisch deel KL ob KLu. It should be noted that this grouping is an editorial representation of the fourteen seperate detachments. It should also be noted that the July 1985 Royal Army order of battle lists a further twenty-seven small to very small unspecified Royal Army detachments assigned to various Royal Air Force units; for editorial reasons these are not shown on this website. NIMH 430, inv. nr. 54, loc. cit.
8.Unless footnoted otherwise this section is a translated summary of NL-HaNA 2.13.182, inv. nr. 663, op.cit., 36-40, 47-51.
9.NL-HaNA 2.13.182, inv. nr. 663, op.cit., 88-89, 126-127. For combat and combat support units the difference would mainly be the incorporation of mobilised personnel, both as reinforcements (e.g. security infantry units) and to enable round-the-clock operations.
10.Ibid., 141. The 1984 Defence White Paper puts the peacetime strength at 19,700. HTK, Defensienota 1984, 113. This is likely the 'budget strength' (begrotingssterkte) or authorised strength. In 1985 the projected authorised peacetime strength for 1987 was 20,959. NL-HaNA 2.13.182, inv. nr. 663, op.cit., 141. About 35% reservists: Dekkers, Vrijwillig, 219. It is not clear whether the ± 6,500 reservists include the ± 3,800 Royal Army personnel that would be mobilised to form the object security units.
11.NL-HaNA 2.13.182, inv. nr. 663, op.cit., 126, 128-129.
12.Ibid., 50.
13.De Jong, Vlucht, 208, 211. Helfferich, Squadrons (1994), 49, 51, 55. Inefficient selection methods: see Logistic and Training Command, note j.