Air watchtowers

Air watchtowers from the Cold War in the Netherlands


Eyes and ears of aerial defence

A history of air defence against low-flying enemy aircraft in the Netherlands during the early years of the Cold War.

Between 1950 and 1968 thousands of volunteers and military staff of the Dutch Observer Corps (Korps Luchtwachtdienst) watched and listened for covertly approaching Soviet aircraft.

The Dutch Corps was modeled according to the example of the British Royal Observer Corps.

Air observation network

A nationwide network of aircraft observation post was built as a detection and warning system against low-flying hostile aircraft during the Cold War.

Preferably, these posts were placed on top of high-rise buildings. Otherwise, freestanding prefab concrete towers were built, the air watchtowers.

Male volunteers served on the observation posts and female volunteers in the regional operations centres.


The network operated only briefly. Due to faster aircraft, improved radar and changed defence strategies (integration with in NATO air defence) the network became redundant in the late1960s.

After decommissioning, most of the once existing nearly 300 posts and associated buildings have been demolished.

Relics from the Cold War

The remaining freestanding towers, posts on buildings and command centres are unique relics of our recent military heritage.

The history of this short-lived but remarkable part in the history of the air defence of the Netherlands during the Cold War remains alive by the remaining towers and the stories of the people who operated the towers and the command centres.

Similar observer corps existed in several other countries at both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Book 2022

Luchtwachttorens uit de Koude Oorlog

(Air watchtowers from the Cold War)


Beautifully designed by Beukers Scholma and published by nai010 publishers