Royal Netherlands Air Force terminates low-level flying activities in Goose Bay, Canada

The Hague, February 28, 2003
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has decided to terminate its low-level flying exercises with F16 jets from the Canadian airbase Goose Bay, starting 1 April 2004. Minister of Defence Mr. Kamp notified the Dutch Parliament of this decision on February 28. As alternative, the air force will use facilities this year on the American Navy base El Centro in California and possibly locations in Florida. For solutions after 2003, the possibilities are weighed in other locations in the USA and the airbase Moron in Spain.
The reason for the decision of the RNLAF not to use Goose Bay in the future has to do with a change of operational use. In the past, during conflicts, low-level flying was an important means to be able to conduct successful missions with F16 jets. Presently, the focus is more on operations at medium height altitudes. Because of that, training in Canada is deemed less important. Moreover, more often missions are conducted during nighttime, using special night-sight instruments (so-called "night vision goggles" and "targeting pods"). In Canada there is only a limited capability for this kind of flights, because of the limited amount of artificial light and the limited amount of suitable targets for this kind of practice missions. And the practising would only be possible in the months September and October.
The Royal Dutch air force has been using the Goose Bay Base since 1986. This base in Labrador is being used for low-level flight training with F16's each year in the summer and in parts of the spring and fall. Next to the Dutch air force, also the air forces of Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom use this Canadian base.

Letter to the Parliament

Termination of low-level flying from Goose Bay (Canada). February 28,

Hereby I notify you of the decision of the Royal Netherlands Air Force to stop its exercises with jet fighters at the Canadian air force base Goose Bay, from March 1, 2004 onwards.

The following considerations have led to this decision. First, recent armed conflicts have demonstrated that the focus has shifted from low-level flying operations (which were particularly important during East-West confrontations) to these operations at medium height altitude. Because of this operational development, exercising in low-level flying - to which Goose Bay offered good possibilities - has become less important tot pilots.

Secondly, operations that are conducted at night have gained in importance. And because of that, the focus has shifted to nighttime training flights, during which use can be made of "targeting pod" (TGP) and "Night Vision Goggles" (NVG). The last two years, it proved to be difficult to conduct this type of exercises at Goose Bay. The reasons for this are that only a short period, the months of September and October, is available for NVG training flights, that there is only limited presence of artificial light in the training area, and that there are only few TGP targets available. Further, the options to conduct "close air support" (CAS) missions at night on medium altitude, using "Forward Air Controllers", are limited. On top of that, the options to conduct "Combined Air Operations" (COMAO), involving a high amount of jets of different types in one exercise, have decreased during the past years.

A third consideration is that the costs of conducting training flights above Goose Bay increase, while the available means of the Royal Netherlands Air Force shrink.

These considerations have lead to the decision that the Netherlands will pull out of the "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) by March 1, 2004. The treaty with Canada, with which this MOU is associated, will nevertheless remain intact. Because of this, training of other military units in Canada will remain possible.

With this decision, an end has come to the highly valued cooperation with Canada in this area, which began in 1986. The partners of the Netherlands in Goose Bay - Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom - have been notified of the Dutch decision.

The facilities in California ("El Centro") and possibly facilities in Florida - both in the USA - will be used this year (to a limited extent) as alternative location for training. For 2004, El Centro is no longer suitable. Because of that, alternatives are studied together with the USA. In addition, the option of airbase Moron in Spain is studied. This latter base offers more nighttime flight options compared to Goose Bay. On top of that, there are more training targets available and the climate allows for training in the winter period as well.

The Minister of Defence.

(Unofficial translation by Arctic Peoples Alert)
CBC-radio 9 mei 2002:
The Royal Netherlands Air Force is considering its future in Happy Valley - Goose Bay, the Air Force may leave Labrador. "Art Fulcamar", spokesperson for Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Program: CBC MORNING NEWS  (08:00) Air Date: May 09 2002, Duration: 1:00

Jacinta Wall: The Royal Netherlands Air Force is considering its future in Goose Bay. The Dutch have trained in Goose Bay since 1986, but the Air Force may leave Labrador. Conrad Lutes reports.

Conrad Lutes: The Dutch are one of four NATO air forces that practice low-level military flying in Goose Bay. They are considering leaving Labrador two years from now. Military officials in Ottawa confirm the Dutch are looking at their options, but they won't comment because it's an internal Dutch matter. Lieutenant Colonel Art Fulcamar is a spokesperson for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, he says nothing has been decided.

Art Fulcamar: No it's not policy, it's not policy, it hasn't even reached the decision making levels or the formal decision making levels within the air force.

Conrad Lutes: The Dutch are looking at ways to save money right across their military service. Their Air Force puts $15 million a year into the Goose Bay economy and employs ten Canadian civilians full time and another 40 during the flying season. Losing the Dutch would be significant in a community that's already worried about the future of its base. The town council is taking this latest news very seriously. Yesterday it called an emergency meeting to talk about ways to convince the Dutch to stay. Conrad Lutes, CBC News, Happy Valley - Goose Bay.