The Royal Netherlands Air Force is the second youngest operational part of the Dutch Armed Forces. Dutch air power started in July 1913 with the founding of the Army Aviation Group at Soesterberg airfield.
The Netherlands maintained a neutral position during World War I and the Army Aviation Group did not take part in any action, instead developing the force’s capabilities.
As war loomed, in July 1939 the Army Aviation Group was renamed the Army Aviation Brigade. In August 1939, the Netherlands government mobilized its armed forces, but due to limited budgets the Army Aviation Brigade operated only 176 combat aircraft.
In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Within five days the Dutch Army Aviation Brigade was taken out by the German Luftwaffe. All of the Brigade’s bombers, along with 30 D.XXI and 17 G.I fighters were shot down. In spite of their numerical inferiority, the Dutch armed forces did enjoy success against the Luftwaffe, having 350 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed, although many of these were lost to anti-aircraft fire and crashes at improvised landing fields in the Netherlands rather than due to action by Dutch fighters.
Some aircrews escaped to England and on June 1, 1940, 320 Squadron and 321 Squadron were established there under RAF operational command.
In 1942, 18 Squadron, a joint Dutch-Australian unit was established, in Canberra, equipped with B-25 Mitchell bombers. It saw action in the New Guinea campaign and over the Dutch East Indies. In 1943, 120 (NEI) Squadron was established. Equipped with Kittyhawk fighters, it flew many missions under Australian command, including the recapturing of Dutch New Guinea.
On the 27th of March 1953 the Royal Netherlands Air Force officially became part of the Dutch armed forces.
During the cold war era Dutch Air Force units played an important part in the West European defence against the opposing Warsaw Pact forces. Dutch fighters and other weapon systems also took a full part in NATO alert, standby duties and exercises through the years.
From 1979 until now all remaining RNLAF squadrons (306, 311, 312, 313, 315, 322 and 323) use NATO’s standard fighter-bomber: the multi role F-16 Fighting Falcon.
In October 2002 a tri-national detachment of 18 Dutch, Danish and Norwegian F-16 ground attack aircraft and one Dutch KDC-10 tanker deployed to Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan in support of ground forces in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The RNLAF returned to Manas AB in September 2004 with five F-16 and one KDC-10 in support of the presidential elections of Afghanistan.
As part of the expanded NATO ISAF mission in southern Afghanistan in August 2006, the Royal Netherlands Air Force had six F-16 ground-attack aircraft, three CH-47D Chinook of 298 Sq stationed at Kandahar Airfield.
This insignia was on RNAF aircraft between 1939 to 1940.